Marijuana pill eases pain longer than smoked form
By Melissa Healy LOS ANGELES TIMES
WASHINGTON — Unless there is some recognized analgesic effect from rolling a joint, lighting it up and deeply inhaling the byproducts of marijuana combustion, then it stands to reason that you could distill the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, THC, and formulate it into, say, a capsule.
Doing so would combine the relief that comes with smoked marijuana with the ease of a pill and the quality control that comes with approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
It turns out that the miracle that is modern psychopharmacology has shown that it is possible to render pot’s analgesic effects into capsule form. It’s called dronabinol.
And according to a new study, it works just as well as smoked marijuana at tamping down pain. But the capsule’s effects last longer, and they come with fewer of the “abuse-related subjected effects” (i.e., feeling high) than does smoked marijuana.
The new research appeared last week in the Nature journal Neuropsychopharmacology. It was written by a group from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.
In a small, preliminary study, researchers ran 30 subjects — all of them regular pot smokers who were in good health — through five experimental sessions. In each session, the subject would plunge his or her left hand into a vat of water set to a temperature just above freezing — 39 degrees — and hold it there for as long as was tolerable (up to two minutes), and then answer questions about the intensity of the pain or discomfort.
This procedure followed the administration of one of the following: three to seven puffs of a marijuana cigarette in one of two strengths (provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse); a single capsule containing dronabinol in one of two doses, high and low; or a capsule containing placebo medication.
After each dose, subjects answered questions about their “liking” for the drug administered and other subjective feelings that might suggest the degree to which the drug would inspire drug-seeking behavior.
Both marijuana and dronabinol at the higher dose increased pain tolerance and decreased pain sensitivity roughly equally in subjects.
Subjects also declared themselves to feel less “high” on both doses of dronabinol than on marijuana.