Marijuana pill is MORE effective at relieving pain and less harmful than smoking the drug

  • American study has found that pill dronabinol blocks pain for two hours longer than smoking marijuana
  • Participants reported less pleasure from pill than smoking so there is less scope for abuse, say experts
  • Fundings could undermine U.S. medical marijuana market, estimated to be worth $1.3 billion

Rachel Reilly

07:00 EST, 23 April 2013


07:42 EST, 23 April 2013

Marijuana in a pill may work ever better as a pain reliever than the smoked form and with fewer harmful side-effects, say experts.

New research, carried out by Columbia University in New York, could undermine the burgeoning U.S. medical marijuana market, which is now estimated to be worth $1.3 billion and expected to reach $9billion in the next three years.

The drug is commonly used by patients suffering with cancer, multiple sclerosis and other painful conditions.

Potent: Marijuana contains chemical THC which has been clinically proven to reduce pain

Potent: Marijuana contains chemical THC which has been clinically proven to reduce pain

In the UK, Sativex, a cannabis-derived mouth spray, has been licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, but it remains difficult for patients to obtain because many NHS trusts refuse to prescribe it due to its cost.

In the new trial of 30 men and women, some smoked the drug,
others took the active chemical in a pill called dronabinol and the rest
took a placebo, according to a report in Medical News Today.

Dronabinol contains the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC.

THC helps block signals from nerve endings reaching the brain which in turn inhibits pain.

Participants were asked to place their hands in ice cold water and then timed to find out how long it took to feel pain and how long the individual could keep their hands submerged.

Results showed that both the smokers and those taking the pill were able to withstand pain for longer.

But most surprisingly, those who took dronabinol were able to endure pain longer than smokers taking the drug in the traditional manner.

And while smoking the drug decreased pain sensitivity for two and a half hours, the pill continued to provide pain-reducing effects for over four hours.

However, the analgesic effect of the pill took much longer to work – dronabinol took an hour compared with just 15 minutes for smoking the drug.

Medical marijuana requires a special card to show that their condition warrants the use of the drug

Medical marijuana requires a special card to show that their condition warrants the use of the drug

Those who took part in the study also reported that they found the effects of dronabinol less pleasurable, compared with people who smoked cannabis, suggesting that the pill has less potential for abuse.

Medical marijuana is legal in 18
U.S. states, and recent research has suggested that the majority of Americans
believe the drug should be legalised.

The research carried out by PewResearch Centre for People and the Press showed
that for the first time in 40 years 52 per cent said it should be
legalised and 72 per cent saying the crackdown on the drug is not worth
the money it costs the government.

The same poll showed that nearly half of Americans admitted to having tried marijuana at some point in their lifetime.

The new findings suggest a marijuana pill ‘can produce analgesic effects for longer without the health risks that come along with smoking,’ said study researcher Ziva Cooper, an assistant professor of clinical neurobiology at Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry.

However, she added that more research is needed to confirm the results.

Because the study involved healthy  people, it’s not clear if those suffering with chronic pain would experience the same effect from the pill.

Previous studies have shown that smoking cannabis helps reduce general pain, nerve pain, improve sleep and mood.

The comments below have not been moderated.

Not only is Marijuana a good painkiller. If you eat the raw leaves and buds it will cure cancer.

Michael Haymar

Oxford UK,
23/4/2013 15:39

What research is there that shows that smoking pure cannabis is harmful? Most drugs manufactured by the big pharmaceutical companies have harmful side effects and some like aspirin send one blind if taken regularly. Of course the big pharmaceutical companies want to make this relatively harmless herb into a pill because there is fortune in it for them. All smoke is harmful to a lesser or greater degree but cannabis can be eaten in meals or inhaled in a vaporizer. Myself I just smoke it and I am fit and healthy and work out every day and at 74 and have never taken a pill in forty years.


23/4/2013 15:03

We really do not need big pharma ruining a very good pain reliever.


Kansas City, United States,
23/4/2013 14:38

Serious weight gains reported in patients and also severe local shortages of potato chips and Oreos during clinical trials.


Columbia, United States,
23/4/2013 14:38

So smoking works faster and the pill works longer. So why not just smoke another one if the pain comes back? You can also make a tincture if you do not want to smoke (called a Green Dragon) of make an ointment with coco nut oil for pains like osteoarthritis. If you get the THC though the skin it’s impossible to get high and it will kill the pain. But of course you need a reliable coffee shop where you can buy this natural medicine::-)


amsterdam, Netherlands,
23/4/2013 14:15

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

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