Brain Imaging Shows How Cannabis Controls Pain

by Dr. Reeja Tharu on  February 4, 2013 at 11:24 AM Health Watch
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Research has found that the oral consumption of the tablet of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive component of cannabis, helped to bear pain without reducing pain intensity.
Brain Imaging Shows How Cannabis Controls Pain
Brain Imaging Shows How Cannabis Controls Pain

Dr Michael Lee of Oxford University's Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB) and his colleagues have revealed that they have the information regarding the neural basis of the pain relief brought about cannabis.

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Long-term pain, which is capable of occurring without a clear cause, is a complex healthcare problem and various types of methods are required to manage it. They include medications, physical therapy or physiotherapy, and psychological support. Cannabis or cannabis-based medications are very useful for some people in managing pain, especially when all other medications have failed.

The study by Lee and his group was carried out to understand how cannabis brings about pain relief. The small study was carried out in controlled settings involving 12 healthy men. For the study, the researchers used only one of many derivative compounds of cannabis -- THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the active psychotropic compound providing the "high"! Each of the twelve volunteers was administered either a 15 mg tablet of THC or a placebo.

To induce pain, the volunteers were required to rub either a cream containing 1% capsaicin or a dummy cream onto the skin of one leg. The former caused burning and a painful sensation, while the dummy cream was used for comparison purpose.

Each subject had four MRI tests to cover each combination of THC or placebo, and pain-inducing cream or dummy cream, and was asked to report the degree of discomfort or pain they were experiencing.

The participants were asked to report the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain and to the extent to which it bothered them. It was found that those who had taken THC reported that the pain bothered them less although they didn't report any change in the pain levels.

The brain imaging studies carried out on these patients support these findings. They showed reduced activity in the areas controlling the emotional aspects of pain in the brain. They also found that it is possible to determine who would benefit from cannabis administration.

This study was different, in that it dealt with healthy subjects and not patients, but it remains to be seen how the findings of the study impacts cannabis -based pain relief therapy. More research is required to evaluate the clinical outcomes and to understand the quality of life of patients with chronic pain.

The results of the study have been reported in the journal Pain.

Source: Medindia

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