Israeli researchers recently published the results of a study looking at the effectiveness of aerosolized THC as a treatment for chronic pain. Though the study is considered small scale, its results were what many expected: patients reported less pain and a higher quality of life after inhaling microdoses of THC with a specialized inhaler.
What makes the results of this study so encouraging is the fact that the researchers could use such small amounts of THC and still achieve positive results. The amount of THC delivered via their aerosolized inhaler are “a fraction of the amount of MC [medical cannabis] compared with other modes of delivery by inhalation,” according to the published report accompanying the study.
Researchers enrolled 143 patients between the ages of 17 and 62; 54% were male and 46% were female. All were diagnosed with chronic neuropathic pain. The neuropathic pain qualifier is important because of the nature of this type of pain. Neuropathic pain is the result of nerve damage caused by trauma, disease, or an underlying health condition.
Participants were provided with the inhaler and medicine and instructed to use it over several months. Some patients reported mild side effects during the initial stages of the study, but those side effects subsided over time. As the months passed, patients gradually reported less pain and a higher quality of life.
The results led researchers to speculate that low-dose THC delivered via an aerosolized inhaler could offer long term pain relief for chronic pain patients. As in most other cases, the researchers were quick to point out the small scale of their study indicated the need for more research to verify their findings.
The implications of this research are important on many levels. Right off the top is the difference between aerosolized THC and cannabis smoke. Here in Utah, smoking Medical Cannabis is illegal. Plant material can only be used as a medicine by dry heating it or using it to make edibles at home.
Dry heating is the process of heating plant material in a specialized vaporizer in order to decarboxylate it. Decarboxylation activates cannabinoids and releases them from plant material. In order for this delivery method to work, the plant material needs to get hot enough to release cannabinoids – but not hot enough to combust.
In an aerosol environment, THC and other cannabinoids are suspended in a pressurized liquid. Forcing that liquid through a nozzle upon release transforms it into an aerosol that can be inhaled. The process is similar to forcing liquid window cleaner through a small nozzle to create a mist.
The main benefit to this sort of delivery method is that there is absolutely no risk of inadvertently creating toxic chemicals that could be inhaled along with the THC. Patients are getting just the medicine they need and nothing more.
We are excited to hear about this research out of Israel. It could ultimately lead to an entirely new delivery method for the future. Giving patients yet another choice allows them the ability to find the delivery method that works best for them. We are fully on-board with that.
Here’s hoping future research shows similar effectiveness of low-dose THC via aerosolized inhalers. If we can help patients find the relief they need with the lowest possible doses of THC, we will be advancing the cause of Medical Cannabis as an effective treatment for chronic pain. That can only be a good thing for pain patients in the long run.