LGBTQ+ activists were one of the first groups to “spark” the push for cannabis legalization.
Many individuals impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s found tremendous relief
from their symptoms using cannabis. Join Torrey Holistics and Chemistry at San Diego Pride
Festival on July 13 & 14 to celebrate the amazing achievements of the LGBTQ+ community,
both in legalizing love and legalizing cannabis!
Peripheral neuropathy is a generalized term for diseases that affect the nerves outside the brain
or spinal cord. Damage to these nerves can express as numbness, burning sensations, pins
and needles and/or sensory sensitivity (enhanced pain from heat, cold or touch). Neuropathic
pain is different from inflammatory pain because it arises out of damage to the nervous system.
Diseases that can cause neuropathic pain include Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, shingles, MS,
or HIV. Chemotherapy treatment can cause neuropathic pain from the treatment’s destructive
nature, as the human body loses cells alongside the cancer cells. Neuropathy is difficult to treat;
it is not the direct result of inflammation like that of a physical injury or arthritis. If neuropathy
was the direct result of inflammation responses, treatments like NSAIDs or steroids would be
effective. Neuropathy from HIV or chemotherapy has poor clinical outcomes when treated with
common prescription medications: gabapentin, antidepressants, SSRI’s or opioids. (1-3)
To elucidate the neuropathic pain-relieving effects of cannabis, let’s take a look at the results of
human clinical trials testing inhaled cannabis for HIV sensory neuropathy (HIV-SN).
1. Cannabis in painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy: A randomized placebo-
In 2007, UC San Francisco conducted a study testing inhaled cannabis’ pain-relieving effects on
HIV-associated sensory neuropathy with 50 patients completing the trial. The double blind,
placebo-controlled study had randomly-assigned patients smoke 3.56% THC cannabis joints or
identical placebo joints with zero THC. The subjects ingested three pre-rolled joints (every day)
for five days. Smoked cannabis reduced daily pain by 34% with no serious adverse events
reported. After the first smoked cannabis pre-roll, pain was initially reduced by an average of
72%, with an overall daily pain reduction of 34%.
2. Smoked medicinal cannabis for neuropathic pain in HIV: a randomized, crossover
In 2009, UC San Diego conducted a double blind, placebo-controlled study onHIV-SN-qualifying
patients who were unresponsive to at least two analgesics (gabapentin and opioids). Patients
continued using standard therapy for their HIV-SN while adding cannabis. Patients started at
4% THC and then titrated up to 8% or down to 1% THC based on their tolerability to cannabis,
as determined by feedback from the participants. The 28 participating patients averaged 30%
overall pain reduction.
3. Cannabis for peripheral neuropathy: The good, the bad, and the unknown.
In 2015, an article in The Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine reviewing clinical trials of human
cannabis use in treating neuropathic pain was published, of which the two HIV-SN trials
mentioned above are cited. The other trials included neuropathy from trauma, diabetes and
spinal cord injury. Every trial used inhaled whole-plant cannabis for measuring immediate pain
relief. The review found that one out of every five patients treated with cannabis had a 30% pain
reduction in neuropathic pain.
Cannabis, as seen in human clinical trials, is a promising treatment option for neuropathic pain
from HIV-related neuropathy. The researchers in these trials used THC-rich cannabis (with no
reported CBD content), measuring an average pain reduction of 30%. An increasing number of
chronic pain sufferers are turning to cannabis as a source of pain relief with fewer side effects
then alternative prescription options. While THC-only cannabis products are effective pain
relievers, optimal pain relief often contains CBD, with a measurable synergistic pain-relieving
effect when combined with THC (3). CBD-rich cannabis products with low to moderate THC
content may provide better long term treatment options for chronic neuropathic pain. (3)
1. Abrams, D. I., Jay, C. A., Shade, S. B., Vizoso, H., Reda, H., Press, S., … Petersen, K. L.
(2007). Cannabis in painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy: A randomized placebo-
controlled trial. Neurology, 68(7), 515–521.
2. Ellis, R. J., Toperoff, W., Vaida, F., Van Den Brande, G., Gonzales, J., Gouaux, B., …
Atkinson, J. H. (2009). Smoked medicinal cannabis for neuropathic pain in HIV: A randomized,
crossover clinical trial. Neuropsychopharmacology, 34(3), 672–680.
3. Modesto-Lowe, V., Bojka, R., & Alvarado, C. (2018, December 1). Cannabis for peripheral
neuropathy: The good, the bad, and the unknown. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.
Cleveland Clinic Educational Foundation. https://doi.org/10.3949/ccjm.85a.17115
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