As medical marijuana laws continue to be passed through the United States, research is still underway as to the active ingredient, THC, and its medicinal potential.

A current study out of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University on a pill currently approved to treat chemotherapy and AIDS patients to with nausea and vomiting has shown that it can also be used for pain management. Dronabinol, a pill with the main ingredient THC, was compared to smoking marijuana in its ability for patients to cope with pain.

The study compared daily pain response in 30 (15 male and 15 female) participants who were marijuana smokers. Researchers had study participants either smoke marijuana, take Dronabinol, or take a placebo. Then, they evaluated pain response. Compared to placebo, marijuana and Dronabinol decreased pain sensitivity, increased pain tolerance, and decreased subjective ratings of pain.

But the drug Dronabinol also produced longer-lasting effect in pain sensitivity and was less subject to abuse-related effects.

The current study only looked at people who had previously smoked marijuana daily and the effects of Dronabinol are still unknown in regards to pain management in non-smokers.   

With the pill already approved in the United States and with medical marijuana laws being passed seemingly every day, will further research into the effects of a pill with THC derail much of the legislation currently underway?  Big Pharma may supplant a plant with a pill and charge more for the 'convenience' of a prepackaged, purified product. 

The study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology can be found here