A new study by Medscape suggests that marijuana may be effective in treating pain caused by diabetic neuropathy. The study, published in the Journal of Pain, is reportedly the first to measure the effect of cannabis on diabetic neuropathy. It was led by researchers at the Division of Pain Management at the University of California, San Diego.
The small study involved just 16 participants with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and neuropathy. Participants were given either marijuana or a placebo through a vaporizer. Those given the cannabis were divided into subgroups based on the concentration of the active ingredient THC in the drug.
All were then asked to rate their pain and their feelings of intoxication. On average, for every one point the participants rated their “highness,” their pain decreased by 0.32. Participants were also asked to do a series of cognitive tests while under the influence to measure their level of impairedness. Not surprisingly, researchers found that cognitive abilities were affected with higher levels of THC, although not significantly.
Marijuana is still considered illegal under federal law, but many states have their own laws covering the drug’s possession and use. Four states (Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska) and the District of Columbia allow some recreational pot use. Many more allow for medical marijuana use in some instances, according to NORML, an organization that advocates for the decriminalization of marijuana.
There are currently few non-opioid options for treating the chronic pain that come with neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy occurs when a series of nerves and blood vessels are damaged from chronically high blood sugar levels. Neuropathy can present itself in a number of ways, including numbness, tingling, and pain, especially in the feet.
The study results make intuitive sense, but larger and more rigorous studies will be needed to confirm these findings.