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Smoked Cannabis Reduces HIV-Associated Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathy is a nerve degeneration that causes a wide variety of symptoms such as numbness, pain, pins and needle sensations, tingling, burning, and shots of lightning. It is caused by many factors such as diabetes , HIV , medications, and trauma . Neuropathy is very difficult to treat.

The Community Consortium for Positive Health at San Francisco General Hospital conducted a study to determine the effect of cannabis on neuropathic pain in people with HIV. The study, published in Neurology , showed that inhaled cannabis was well-tolerated and effective in relieving neuropathic pain.

About the Study

The small crossover trial had 34 participants with sensory neuropathy. In one half of the study, participants smoked active cannabis ranging from 1%-8% potency, four times a day for five days. In the other half, participants smoked a placebo ingredient with the same frequency. There was a two-week washout period between the sessions.

Participants were asked to rate their pain by assigning a score. Successful pain treatment was determined if the pain was reduced by 30% or more.

  • 46% of the participants in the cannabis group reported pain reduction of 30% or more
  • 18% of the participants in the placebo group reported pain reduction of 30% or more

Participants maintained their current regimen for pain treatment throughout the study.

How Does This Affect You?

There are many medications for neuropathy but many are not effective in HIV-related neuropathy. Pain management is important to help improve quality of life and maintain daily functions. This small study suggests that cannabis may be effective for pain management.

Talk to your doctor about your pain management options.




  • Lambertz CK, Johnson CJ, Montgomery PG, Maxwell JR. Smoked medicinal cannabis for neuropathic pain in HIV: a randomized, crossover clinical trial. Neuropsychopharmacology . 2008 Aug 6. Available at: . Accessed September 30, 2008.

Last reviewed October 2008 by Larissa J. Lucas, MD

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