From: Cannabis Campaigners' Guide

Source: East Anglian Daily Times, UK

Pub Date: Thursday 21 August 2003


Cited: Legalise Cannabis Alliance



IPSWICH hospital is set to take part in ground-breaking research involving the use of the controversial drug cannabis as a painkiller.

Hospital representatives will meet with the Medical Research Council (MRC) on September 2 to decide whether to sign up and take part in the national investigation.

The 500,000 MRC-funded research will see 400 patients across the country take part in a bid to determine if cannabis can be used as a painkiller for people following surgery.

Dr Jan Stevens, consultant anaesthetist and head of the hospital's acute pain service, explained the trial, set to start later this year, would only be open to women who have had hysterectomies.

Following surgery, patients will be given a cannabis capsule and monitored over a six-hour period before the results are compared to those taking either a placebo or paracetomol.

Dr Stevens said: "It's exciting for us to be putting Ipswich on the map by being involved in this sort of cutting-edge research.

"It's yet another way for us to help people who are in pain - we want to be able to help in the best way we possibly can.

"Cannabis is a different type of drug to that which is already available to us and therefore could help us with patients who either can't take other drugs or who need more painkillers.

"It works in a different way and has benefits that are greater than other painkillers - it reduces sickness and it can stop the spasm of the bowels after operations.

"We use opiates a lot to reduce pain and they often cause sickness - while cannabis is actually beneficial."

Dr Stevens explained that cannabis was used legally as a painkiller until 1970, and said the stigma which society attaches to its use is undeserved.

"Like a lot of the drugs we use, there is a chance of abuse," he said.

"But the chance of abuse with cannabis is much lower than compared to some other drugs that we already use, like heroin. I think the bias against it is getting less - the House of Lords has both de-classified it as a drug and has said that it is highly commended that we do more research with it.

"This is a step in the right direction in getting rid of the stigma that cannabis has."

Dr Anita Holdcroft from Imperial College London, at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, will be heading the national trial.

She said: "Many patients and clinicians want an answer to the question of whether cannabis is effective at relieving pain.

"We need to assess the scientific merits of some of the anecdotal evidence and we need to do this in the same way as any other experimental pain treatment.

"This is a proper study in a clinical setting where patients can be routinely monitored, using an oral capsule containing a prescribed dose.

"The important thing to remember is no-one will be left without access to pain relief during the trial, regardless of what treatment they are allocated and if successful, could help to improve patient-choice in the long run."

Don Barnard, a spokesman for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, welcomed news of the surgical trials of the drug.

He said: "It's a move forward and it will help some people - I look forward to it and I know it will be successful."

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