Snoop Lion may be ditching his doobie for dronabinol. Okay, that's unlikely, but a new study found that this prescription pill containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, offers longer-lasting pain relief than smoking pot.
Columbia University researchers gave a group of regular tokers various grades of marijuana, different dronabinol dosages, and placebos – without the participants knowing which they received when. Next, they submerged their hands in icy water to see how long they could tolerate the pain and rated the intensity of the pain. Turns out smoking pot and taking the pill produced an equal amount of relief. However, while the effects kicked in quicker after smoking, dronabinol's pain-easing benefits lasted far longer – up to six hours compared to toking's two hours.
Although this is a preliminary study, it may mean great news for people plagued by chronic body aches. The results suggest that to score the same degree of relief, you have to smoke way more pot – very expensive and in many states illegal – than you would need to take dronabinol. Plus, with the pill you can sidestep the harmful effects of inhaling smoke. But the researchers say more research is needed to confirm these findings before dronabinol could be marketed for pain relief.
"Currently, dronabinol is Food and Drug Administration approved for just two indications, and pain is not one of them," says study author Ziva Cooper. "It is approved to help alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and to improve weight and appetite loss associated with HIV medications." But if more studies yield similar results, who knows?
Oh, and you're probably wondering whether the pill gets you high. "Dronabinol did produce feelings of intoxication and 'drug liking' in our study of marijuana smokers who were not specifically seeking pain relief," Cooper says. "However, these feelings were significantly lower than those elicited by marijuana, so the potential for abuse is likely lower with dronabinol than marijuana."