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Medical News & Perspectives
November 5, 2008

Cannabislike Drugs May Hold Key to Treating Pain While Bypassing the Brain

JAMA. 2008;300(17):1987. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.533

Although the therapeutic properties of marijuana, or cannabis, have been of interest for years, the substance's unwanted effects and its illegal status as a street drug have made its medical use controversial. Now, however, research suggests that some cannabislike drugs—agonists that bind to only 1 of the 2 cannabinoid receptors that are activated by cannabis—can relieve pain while leaving the brain unaffected (Anand U et al. Pain. 2008;138[3]:667-680). These findings suggest that such agents may offer the potential to sidestep some of the most contentious issues in the medical marijuana debate by harnessing the therapeutic benefits of cannabis while eliminating many of the adverse effects that are associated with its use.