Page last updated at 10:23 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2003 11:23 UK

Q&A: Cannabis pain trial

NHS patients are to be given cannabis-based drugs to see if it helps relieve pain. BBC News Online looks at what the research will involve.

What will the research look at?

Scientists will randomly select 400 patients who have undergone surgery from hospitals across the UK to take part in the study.

They hope to discover if cannabis-based medicines can help ease post-operative pain.

Each patient will be given one of four pills, two of which will be cannabis-based pills, one of which will be a painkiller with the other a dummy pills.

Neither the patients nor the doctors will know who gets which pill.

The patients will then be asked about their pain in the hours after their operations.

The study, which is run by the Medical Research Council, is being funded by the government.

Will the patients be smoking cannabis?

No. One of the pills will be cannabinoids - the active constituents of cannabis.

One will be a natural cannabinoid, the other tetrahydrocannabinol- a synthetic cannabinoid.

Will the patients get high?

No. The medication will only give patients the same kind of well-being they would get from other forms of pain-relief.

Is there evidence cannabis can ease pain?

Studies have indicated that cannabis-based drugs can ease post-operative pain, though some studies have indicated the medication is no more effective than codeine.

Other studies have suggested that cannabinoids can ease chronic pain associated with conditions cancer and spinal cord injury.

Tests of a cannabis-based spray have also been shown to help relieve multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Many MS sufferers say smoking cannabis relieves their condition, but a number have been prosecuted for using the illegal drug.

When could cannabis-based drugs for post-operative pain be available?

There have already been trials to test if these drugs are safe. This trial is to test how effective they are.

However, much more research is needed, and it could be some years before doctors can prescribe them for patients.

SEE ALSO
Cannabis 'not medical panacea'
05 Jul 01 |  Health
Cannabis
08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes


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