Study: Vaporized, Low-Potency Cannabis Mitigates Neuropathic Pain

The administration of vaporized, low THC cannabis is associated with reduced pain in subjects with neuropathy, according to clinical trial data published online by The Journal of Pain.

Investigators at the University of California, Davis Medical Center conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study evaluating the analgesic efficacy of vaporized cannabis in 39 subjects, the majority of whom were experiencing neuropathic pain despite traditional treatment. Subjects inhaled cannabis of either moderate THC (3.53 percent), low dose THC (1.29 percent), or zero THC (placebo). Subjects continued to take all other concurrent medications as per their normal routine during the 3- to 4-week study period. Spontaneous pain relief, the primary outcome variable, was assessed by asking participants to indicate the intensity of their current pain on a 100-mm visual analog scale (VAS) between 0 (no pain) and 100 (worst possible pain).

Researchers reported: “Both the low and medium doses proved to be salutary analgesics for the heterogeneous collection of neuropathic pain conditions studied. Both active study medications provided statistically significant 30% reductions in pain intensity when compared to placebo.”

They concluded: “Both the 1.29% and 3.53% vaporized THC study medications produced equal antinociception at every time point. … [T]he use of low doses could potentially be prescribed by physicians interested in helping patients use cannabis effectively while minimizing cognitive and psychological side effects. Viewed with this in mind, the present study adds to a growing body of literature supporting the use of cannabis for the treatment of neuropathic pain. It provides additional evidence of the efficacy of vaporized cannabis as well as establishes low-dose cannabis (1.29%) as having a favorable risk-benefit ratio.”

Previous clinical trials have indicated that inhaled cannabis can safety and effectively relieve various types of pain, particularly neuropathy — a hard-to-treat nerve condition often associated with cancer, HIV, spinal cord injury, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions. These include the following double-blind, placebo-controlled (FDA gold-standard) studies:

Ware et al. 2010. Smoked cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ 182: 694-701.

Wilsey et al. 2008. A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of cannabis cigarettes in neuropathic pain. Journal of Pain 9: 506-521.

Ellis et al. 2008. Smoked medicinal cannabis for neuropathic pain in HIV: a randomized, crossover clinical trial. Neuropsychopharmacology 34: 672-80.

Abrams et al. 2007. Cannabis in painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Neurology 68: 515-521.

Wallace et al. 2007. Dose-dependent Effects of Smoked Cannabis on Capsaicin-induced Pain and Hyperalgesia in Healthy Volunteers Anesthesiology 107: 785-796.

Separate clinical trial data also reports that inhaled “cannabis augments the analgesic effect of opioids” and therefore “may allow for opioid treatment at lower doses with fewer side effects.”

Since 1999, US sales of opiate drugs have tripled in number and in 2010, a record-setting 254 million prescriptions for opioids were filled in the United States — enough to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month. (In particular, the manufacturing of the drug Oxycodone has increased from 8.3 tons in 1997 to 105 tons in 2011, an increase of 1,200 percent.) Overdose deaths from the use of prescription painkillers are also now at record levels, totaling some 15,000 annually — more than triple the total a decade ago.

Full text of the study, “Low-dose vaporized cannabis significantly improves neuropathic pain,” appears in The Journal of Pain.

48 thoughts

  1. Unfortunately, my mother, who suffers terribly from post-herpetic neuropathic pain, will not use cannabis because of the stigma associated with its use. Legalize it!

  2. Sounds like more factual proof that cannabis is not a class 1 substance. You get the feeling our government is playing stupid so they can keep laws as they are. All while they weigh what way the political winds are blowing on this issue. How can you trust a government that is so blind to truth and fairness. It is really a shame that these so called leaders can not stop this giant police machine that they have created from incriminating our young people. Most of the 850,000 arrested last year for mere possession of a harmless plant. I guess we can all hope they are starting to get the message in Washington D.C.. WE MUST THANK THE POLITICIANS OF BOTH PARTIES WHO WILL STAND UP FOR THIS ISSUE! LET RESEARCH CONTINUE TO PROVE THIS PLANTS VALUE.

  3. we need to break that stigma jmalmo. 80% of Americans support medical and we’re still treated like criminals!

  4. I would like to see if it helps my carpal tunnel pain, but the pain is at its worst in the morning, and I will NOT get stoned that early. The whole day, is shot and when you want to play guitar later the enhanced hearing is not there.

  5. I have had phn for 3 1/2 years and without cannabis, would not be able to live my daily life as full BC there are no other effective treatments for PHN and other neuropathies. It is the difference between existing and living. Without mmj creams, teas, and other meds my own physical therapist wouldn’t be able to help. Keep the research coming!

  6. It’s a shame that congress keeps sweeping the medical cannabis issue under the rug. All that does is prevent suffering patients from being able to have a little better quality of life. It’s very clear that the majority of Americans want to help patients with cancer and debilitating diseases, but lawmakers continue to avoid helping them by failing to legalize medical cannabis. It’s truly unbelievable that they continue to fail to pass a compassionate care law! Shame on them!

  7. >jmalmo
    I totally agree and sympathise with you. The attitude to medical cannabis really does not help. Medical cannabis is often portrayed with the trappings of coffeeshop culture rather than the serious attitude becoming a medicine of it’s stature. I don’t even like the Cheech and Chong – tree hugging – new age image cannabis has as a recreational user. Cannabis use pervades nearly every social group but there is a pressure to conform to this silly stereotype. It get’s serious when people who need medical relief are put off by this image (some doctors are also put off despite good medical research). I get the impression that cultural diversity of cannabis users is something most legalisation campaigners try to avoid – they seem to hope cannabis use will make people a stupid hippy just like them.
    Getting back to the article – a vaporiser is a good way to present cannabis to a medical user since it takes it away from that stereotype and is much safer (even if they eventually become more comfortable with smoking). Most dispensaries have a wide range of edibles and extracts which you could portray as a whole different ball game to some one reluctant to join the ‘cannabis culture’ to get their medicine. If you live in a state or country where medical cannabis is not legal then forget it – most people will simply not touch it despite the hardship they are suffering (this has happened with relatives of mine). The PR has come a long way but there is still some way to go and on the whole NORML is pretty good at presenting a sober, sensible attitude to the subject – maybe this is the route of their success.

  8. Thank you NORML for posting this article.

    The message about the SUPERIOR efficacy of VAPORIZED cannabis
    cannot be overemphasized!!!

    Vaporization produces the immediate pain-relief of smoking
    MINUS smoking’s drawbacks, (carbon monoxide, benzopyrenes, tar).

    And VAPORIZATION of cannabis is MORE EFFICIENT compared to smoking.

    Lastly, VAPORIZATION is a powerful “talking point” when addressing
    medi-cann opponents who spout-off with “smoked marijuana is NOT medicine”

    NEWSFLASH: It doesn’t have to be “smoked”…!!!

    Be wise, VAPORIZE!!!

  9. @jmalmo: My poor mother, now. dead, suffered horribly after chemo therapy because of cancer. She smoked cigarettes for many years which, no doubt, caused the cancer. I tried to get her to try cannabis but she refused because it’s illegal… I know it would have helped her to deal with her symptoms. It’s just so sad that greedy and ignorant people continue to villanize this amazing herb.

  10. This is not unexpected since even the limited research done using awful, government-supplied cannabis has had positive medicinal effects.

    One of the secrets of cannabis is that lower levels of potency are still good–even preferable for some of us who use simply because we enjoy it. I don’t need or want to get baked to enjoy my cannabis.

  11. This limited study and so many others are the promising evidence that would fast-track and FDA submission, except cannabis. The world is waking up, and seeing the reality that racists and tyrannical people of power are standing between the law and liberty. Those who uphold the CSA uphold openly racist policies and stand behind racial ideology. History will write a scathing review of your participation in this gross miscarriage of justice and bastardized destruction of our Constitutional principles. People like Melinda Haag will go down in history as an oppressor of people, one who places her own ideological tyranny ahead of liberty. She has prosecutorial discretion. She chooses to act belligerently in support of this racist law, shutting down dispensaries not because there are some bad actors, but because she’s sick and tired of people doing what they will with their lives and bodies.

    Here’s a clue Melinda Haag, and any other person in law enforcement who stands behind this grossly unjust law: history is already writing the stories of how the nation founded on the most noble notions of liberty and freedom can have so many who openly support the laws and work to further oppress the sick, the poor and people of color. This is your legacy. You’re going down in history as racist ppressors, cold-hearted antofonists of those who seek relief, self-interested opportunists, working in concert to shackle and destroy the lives of millions of black and brown people, while advancing your own personal gains.

    You, Melinda Haag, and your ilk, are disgusting human beings.

  12. I’am a cronic pain suffer since 4/23/83,nerve damage that can not be repaired.I curently have morphine pain pump that will be removed soon & take oral med’s as well,i’am sick to death of them & much prefer pot pain,it decrease my pain,calms my nerves & makes me happy.PS please help me find DR. to get med marijuana.thanks & God bless.

  13. David,the correct name for Melinda Haag and persons inflicted with their diseased minds is prohibisites,,because kust like the parasites they resemble,,they cannot survive without prohibition of hemp,,their paychecks depend on them not understanding and compassion is between clap and constipation in the dictionary.

  14. People are ignorant because they are taught from conception to death that mmj is the “gateway drug”to the more dangerous drugs. At the ripe old age of 46 I have come to believe that a persons drug of choice is just that their choice. Of all the people I have had the pleasure to meet in my life if you break them up into groups the group who only smokes cigarettes and those who only smoked weed and of those two groups the cigarette smoker is ALWAYS the sicker of the two, and the group that does both is the sickest of em all.
    If you look at the claim that one joint is equal to five cigarettes. First I question how tightly that joint was rolled because that one aspect of the test greatly effects the overall result, next I question the cigarette itself. Was it filtered or unfiltered and again this one aspect greatly effects the whole process, that is if this test really exists at all? All of us are placed in school who we are entrusting to teach us the truth when all the do is intentionally lie to us. I know for a fact that I have never met or seen a mmj user with a smokers cough.

  15. A couple of years ago I was a victim of a gun shot. After surgery I was given some pain killers, opiate pain killers for the pain. However, the pain was not even slightly mitigated by these chemicals. Apparently it was neuropathic, based on what the doctor said. It felt like someone was constantly burning the affected area, however when I was exposed to certain chemicals mentioned in this article, the affected area went from constant pain, to numb…and the effect lasted for a few hours…I am another testimony to the wonders of this highly demonized substance and I am certain there are many others like myself out there.

  16. @HmmmSaysDavidHume – Truly Melinda Haag and her kind are totally disgusting human beings!

    I suggest that NORML, in order to raise a bit more money for the cause, should create dartboards of the worst prohibitionist offenders! I’d buy one with Melinda Haag (hag) on it! Ray Martinez, of Fort Collins Co is another ignorant dirtbag I’d like to throw darts at!

  17. Blow’s my mind that money is still being wasted on studies of why marijuana should be legal for medicinal or recreational. It’s common sense. Spend the money on driving to the feds to make it legal, that is what needs to happen, more people to come out of the closet on this and really show them how many people in American want it legalized.

  18. Marijuana is the best pain reliver, stress reducer, mood enhancing, sexual mood enhancing, appetite enhancing, sleep aid, I have ever had in my life, and it is the safest of any other medication. Duh!

  19. >Miles Well said !
    People like Melinda Haag inflict pain and suffering all in the name of keeping drugs away from children. This would be cruel and unbalanced if their solution worked. Since it does not work they simply criminally reckless – it’s a hate crime.

  20. This is great news, however I’m still beating the drum for the feds to get out of cannabis states to remove that hurdle for states that want to but didn’t want to cross the feds, AND I’m still beating the drum for cannabis to be removed from Schedule I. It’s just such as small step merely to put marijuana in Schedule III or something, which may be where pharmaceuticals using cannabis or synthetic drug forms of chemicals found to naturally occur in cannabis belong. The plant itself must be removed from the Schedule altogether. Period.

    This is perfect for the sausage-making going on in D.C. to deal with the fiscal cliff shit. One side is asking for cuts, the other for revenues. Savings is an accounting +$ number, and cash flow from revenues now above ground add to that another accounting +$ number. The feds will get their share from the pharmaceutical industry for cannabis-based patents and drugs, plus whatever they get from business and individual taxes–so on down the line of levels of government.

    If is a zero-sum situation, the public stands to gain, while the illegal circles, overlapping illegal circles of people that map the major regions of land: most of North America, Western Europe, Asia, Middle East, and wherever cannabis is prevalent.

    Internationally, the feds have the opportunity to follow the money trail to the source to monitor who they are and what they spend their money on to develop and modernize their countries AND NOT use the profits to kills us, basically. It’s an opportunity for them to fund their own improvement of the human condition. The U.S. assets, government and NGOs, would be right there to pay in hard currency and outarm the opposition, if they want to have it that way. Need I remind you of Mexico. Just look at the bloody mess down there. All that death and suffering it just plain old wrong on so many levels, moral, financial, the good-neighbor perspective.

    Just give up on this idea about making illegal immigrants (Mexicans and Latinos?) pay some sort of fine even after the government allows them to stay. If they’re good enough for you to let them stay then they’re good enough for amnesty. So you make them apply for a work permit, and the employer can’t hire them without a work permit, which does not have to mean they can get a Green Card just because of that alone. I mean, shit, have you ever been to Western Europe where they have open borders and their work permit system. I mean, now that’s a good neighbor policy, and they’ve got a work permit policy for Europeans outside of the Schenghen Agreement, such as Eastern Europeans, and a work permit scheme for U.S. citizens who want to work there. My point is, Listen Up, my point is that it needs to be easier for people to come to the country legally to work. A work permit system gives people the right to work, and can be used to limit how much they may make use of the social safety and blah, blah, blah; you can look into the rest yourselves.

    I guess Wall Street isn’t looking for any cash flow from the cannabis sector, as if they can ever get enough money; just like as if the politicians can never get enough power.

    Let’s get this plant legalized now. It’s like Barney Frank said that we need to press out advantage. Absolutely right! I love Barney Frank. I’m so glad he wants to wants the appointment, I think it’s a senate appointment up until election time. Here goes plan B, if he’s in, as he knows who his allies in the House are, and then he’ll probe the Senate. I hope he gets it. I hope he succeeds. I hope he spearheads legalization soon. When I look at how many states that have gay marriage and how many states have legalized cannabis I have to consider the order of things taking place, that is if for example a state becoming an MMJ state makes it then more likely to then later have gay marriage, and where it is likely to be marriage first then cannabis, blah, blah, blah.

    Kiss X Kiss, Barney

  21. Well I hope @phrtao and @Drew Vapormoore will keep writing and emphasize this SHIFT TO VAPOR. Let cannabis users lead the fight to eliminate Hot Burning Overdose Monoxide $igarette (HBOM$) papers from the planet, regardless what they contain.

    The study described above is praiseworthy for drawing attention to VAPORIZATION, compared to surveys such as the recent New Zealand one which dominated the google “cannabis”-related search results for months, but mentioned no distinction between use of “joints” and other inhalant delivery methods– and also didn’t bother studying the difference whether non-mix-with-tobacco-users did better on IQ tests.

    I’d like to repeat: cannabis users, including authorized mmj patients, are urged to familiarize themselves with the Distant Flame (ferne Beleuchtung) lighting method whereby even indigent or low income persons who don’t think they can afford a vaporizer can get good vaporizing results from a cheap screened $4 One-Hitter (with long flexible drawtube) and an ultra-cheap 5/$1 chinese Lighter.

  22. I am a 61 year old cancer survivor who has severe neuropathy. From chemo..I’ve been using MM like this for over 6 months, It’s given me a new life. Too bad for those who care about the stigma, I’m doing soooo much better

  23. taking medicine is ALL about feeling better. all people are not perfect and don’t have it perfect and EVERY person feels bad sometimes and COULD benefit from cannabis. Why should we take/get hooked to Oxy 40s when OG Kush works so much better. It is all about feeling better. Feeling good is better than feeling bad as feeling bad leads to sandy hook and adolf hitler type shit. There would be probably less smoking if/when it becomes legal- Minimum age: 21… God, these people in charge are INSANE!!!

  24. Why is NORML supporting this, it doesn’t make sense. First they say that 1% would do anything, but they support this study as truth. I’ve seen one other thing that I don’t agree with, but this makes number 2. 1-3.5% won’t do anything for me but make want to smoke more.

  25. One of the Good Ones, no he’s not a racist; Obama is a non-sympathetic Uncle Tom for Pot Heads (not a racial group). He seems to be under the impression *he* can lead the cops to *correctly* enforcing these broken laws without the usual racial profiling. That would be great in one way, but being better non-thinking zombie police that arrest everyone for things that aren’t crimes is not helping the USA become a better country. It helps make us a laughing stock.

    Obama, you can’t fix what is this broke. Damn egomaniacs… Even if he somehow manages to remove a large portion of old style racism, the Drug War is still just a corrupt replacement that very racist and/or hateful mindset. No matter how professional one may be, you cannot serve other folks evil intentions with a clear conscious.

  26. For those who have loved ones that will not smoke or vaporize in any way at all, look into making your own cannabis oil – I use coconut oil as my base oil – about 1/4 ounce and 3 cups warm, not hot coconut oil, it must steep (just set) for 70 to 90 days and it needs to stay in a warm spot, above 75 degrees F. I keep mind on top of the hot water heater and stir every other day for the first 28 days and once a week after that. Dosage is 1 TBS daily followed with a cup of warm liquid. I take out about 4 – 6 ounces and add more oil to steep, strain to take (yes, you are taking a TBS of oil), but leave product in oil. Enjoy & legal in ALL states!

  27. Unfortunately, my mother, who suffers terribly from post-herpetic neuropathic pain, will not use cannabis because of the stigma associated with its use. Legalize it!

  28. The hard working gold miners would use vitamin B-6 supplements for their carpal tunnel pain and it helped not only relieve the pain but prevented surgery. They took doses up to 400 but 100-200 mg. helped me when it started to act up again. Research this vitamin. Magnets worked too, believe it or not!!

  29. Would like to ask the 61 yr old cancer survived what amount of cannabis she uses and in what firm to help her chemo induced peripheral nueropathy. I have tha condition also from chemo. Please pass on some info. Thanks

  30. I’m a Type 1 Diabetic who has been battling neuropathy for the last four years in my feet/legs/hips. It also causes back pain/spasms. I’ve been on methadone/oxycodone/lamictal/topamax/baclafen and just can’t take it anymore. The data is so conflicting and not to offend anyone I find a lot of the problem is the people who just want to smoke pot make it hard for the people who need medical marijuana. The opiates make me feel like a drug addict every time I take them, yet I’m freaking out about trying MM – because of how you have to acquire it. Even though it’s medically legal where I’m at it such a process and I don’t know if it will work. My pain Dr says it does have merit, but she’s against it because she feels it makes you dumb. Like synthetic herion makes you smart? This is the worst situation I never thought I’d find myself in. My mom just died of non smoking lung cancer so I’m not too up on smoking – does any one have knowledge of eating “hash” and if it works the same. I know from research it makes it stronger, but does it help the same way or is it different? Any advise suggestions that might make my situation easier to find and bare would help.

  31. Well, I agree with all of this. My mother had terrible neuropathy her last 6 months before she died of cancer. I offered her the legal option of cannabis but she was reluctant due to her age and the stigma. So now I am trying to grow high CBD meds and work with local doctors who have patients with AIDS and serious neuropathy. I have to work in a grey area of the law, but am allowed 4 plants. It is a serious issue that needs some brave people to come alongside patients and work with doctors who cant get too involved. By the way I am 50, and a commited Christian. I do not like the stoner image either, and want to help break that mold and make this medicine available to all who really need it.

  32. Now, or soon, completely legal for recreational use (as well as medical use) in my home state of Washington. Colorado as well, I think. The rest of the country will catch on eventually.

  33. Has anyone in this group joined Kannaway? They are promoting a high grade CBD the people I have brought in are loving it!! Any feed back from anyone that has joined? They are promoting a CBD legal in all 50 states and are structured as a New MLM Hemp program. Fro more info go to

    Mark Beard

  34. Thankfully studies such as these are already on the books, which should expedite the usage of Marijuana for nerve pain, notorious of being non-responsive to other pain medications, should the government ever get it going and legalize the its use for medical purposes.
    What a fantastic feeling to no longer have the feeling of a million little needles being stuck in your hand and feet/legs. Maybe we sufferers will be allowed to find out some day.

    See the link for “Opposition to Kentucky HB 1-Reform HB 217 aka “Pill Mill Bill”

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