Diabetic neuropathy, a sometimes debilitating condition related to nerve degeneration, may affect between 60 and 70 percent of all patients who have been diagnosed with either type I or type II diabetes. Neuropathy can occur in different patterns throughout the body. The most common areas plagued by the often-painful tingling of neuropathy are the head, torso, legs, feet, arms and hands.
Relief from that tingling that can occur throughout the body often eludes patients, leading to everyday lives filled with pain and the inability to participate in previously enjoyed activities. Findings in a 2009 study, however, may offer hope where other treatments have failed.
Studying Neuropathic Impact and Relief
A groundbreaking 2009 clinical study was conducted at the General Clinical Research Center at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center to test the effect of medical cannabis on neuropathic pain suffered by HIV patients. Although a different disease, the impact of neuropathy among the HIV patient population is just as painful, persistent and difficult to treat with traditional opioid, NSAID or analgesic medications as neuropathy associate with diabetes.
Regulating the Impact of Painful Stimulus
The premise for the study, developed around animal-based studies, indicated a positive analgesic effect on the spinal cord in regulating how pain centers throughout the body were sent painful signals. The first human study was a double-blind trial, which means that neither the patients or researchers knew who received active cannabis-based medication, and who received placebos. Twenty-eight individuals completed all five phases of the trial, which included:
- An introductory week, where baseline pain measurements were collected,
- Five days of medication usage, either active or placebo,
- Two weeks of monitoring for impact and side effects,
- Five more days of medication,
- And two final weeks of monitoring.
Results after the seven-week study showed far greater pain relief was realized by the participants who were given medical marijuana versus the placebo. When used in addition to already-prescribed regimens of traditional pain medications, study participants achieved up to 30 percent greater pain relief--a significant change.
Relief Without Reaction
Coming in a close second to the drastic pain relief experienced by study participants was a secondary benefit of limited adverse interactions or reactions. Only two of the 28 study participants experienced undesired side effects, none of which proved to be long-lasting or life-threatening. One subject developed short-term psychosis while another suffered a smoking-related cough, both of which cleared after discontinuation of cannabis usage. Overall mood and the ability to perform normal daily functions improved in all study participants.
Hope for Diabetic Neuropathy
The same improvement realized by participants in the HIV-related neuropathic pain study can occur in sufferers of diabetic neuropathy. Medical cannabis doctors can follow the marijuana dosing and timing guidelines developed from this study to be of maximum benefit in staving off the painful sensations of neuropathy. From study findings, medical marijuana between 1% and 8% THC potency can be used, dependent upon original baseline pain determination, and smoked up to four times daily. When combined with continued analgesic use, long-time pain sufferers can find much greater pain relief than ever before.