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New Marijuana-Like Drug Found Effective for Pain

September 24, 1998

UC San Francisco researchers have shown that a synthetic drug that mimics the main active ingredient in marijuana works like morphine, but with fewer side effects to reduce pain. In a letter to Nature, Dr. Ian Meng and her colleagues explained how compounds in marijuana, known as cannabinoids, affect cells in an area of the brain that controls pain.

Marijuana has been touted as a pain killer for a variety of medical conditions, but studies of humans have produced inconsistent results and its use for medicinal purposes is still controversial.

"These results indicate that the marijuana-like drug can reduce pain by affecting the same pain-modulating neurons (brain cells) as morphine, but through separate mechanisms," Meng said.

Meng's finding from his research on rats raises the possibility that marijuana-like drugs could be used to treat pain.

Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II

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