Another clinical study on medical cannabis is starting in South Africa

A clinical study was recently launched by the Cannabis Research Institute of South Africa (CRI) in partnership with Releaf Cannabis E-Clinics with the aim of observing how medical cannabis can help treat opioid addiction.

The duration of the study is one year as it examines how cannabis affects a patient’s chronic pain. According to Business Tech, the results will be made available to “relevant authorities,” who can use this information to regulate medicinal cannabis in the country.

The study is led by Dr. Shiksha Gallow, who will work with her team to conduct the study. “While the South African Health Products Regulatory Agency (SAHPRA) has not yet officially approved cannabis-based medicines for pain relief, anecdotal evidence and preliminary studies point to their potential to be highly effective in pain management,” Gallow said.

Gallow explained that chronic pain is defined as lasting more than six months. Treatments for chronic pain include opioids, such as morphine, oxycodone, and codeine, which instruct a patient’s opioid receptors to block pain signals sent by the body. However, patients develop a tolerance over time, so the drug only works for a while before the drug dose needs to be increased. “Opiates are associated with many side effects, including sedation, respiratory depression — and even death,” Gallow said. “With opiate addiction on the rise worldwide, with widespread implications ranging from poor health to broader societal issues such as crime, research will focus on finding a safer alternative to pain management.”

CRI partners with Releaf Pharmaceuticals to study cannabis and find safer medical options for patients. The company’s managing director, Willco Janse van Vuuren, expressed his excitement about the start of this study. “At Releaf Pharmaceuticals (a proud member of the ImpiloVest Group) we believe that being healthy is a basic human right. Social, mental and physical health is the focus of our actions. We are proud to work with Dr. Shiksha Gallow and the Cannabis Research Institute of South Africa to collaborate in this groundbreaking study to find natural pain management solutions that are safe and effective,” van Vuuren said on LinkedIn.

While opioid addiction has caused the deaths of thousands of people, there is evidence that medicinal cannabis can help manage chronic pain without the risk of addiction or overdose. Bella Dorrington, senior researcher at CRI, believes this study has a lot of potential to help people. “This study aims to highlight the benefits of cannabis treatment. South Africa is poised to set a standard for medicinal cannabis in the global market as we have the resources, technology and people to make this happen,” said Dorrington.

In June 2022, South Africa’s first clinical trial was launched by Labat Africa and its subsidiary Biodata, also working with Gallow. Dubbed the Pharma Ethics Observational Study, this study also analyzes how medical cannabis can help replace opioids for chronic pain. The study will involve 1,000 patients who have been taking prescribed opioids for at least three months and who will be administered the Tallyman and Exodus varieties (provided by Sweetwaters Aquaponics of Labat). The strain called 9 Pound Hammer was also cultivated for this use by Sweetwaters Aquaponics, known for its high THC and CBG cannabinoid percentages.

As in many places in the US, South African researchers are investigating how psilocybin can be used for medicinal treatments. A study was launched in June to look at how the substance can help women with HIV and depression.

South Africa has gradually emerged as a cannabis destination. In July 2022, a three-day cannabis festival was held in a township in Johannesburg (in the semi-northern part of the country).

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