As the opioid crisis continues to ravage the United States, scientists in Los Angeles are hoping their research into cannabis can provide an alternative to powerfully addictive, potentially deadly pain medications.
"Cannabis probably can certainly help with pain," Dr. Timothy Fong, addiction specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told KCBS-TV.
Fong, an executive member of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, said it is not clear what type of pain marijuana would be effective in treating. He said he hopes his research will be able to zero in on whether some pain that gets treated with opioids - back, headache and stomach, as examples - can be alleviated with pot.
Fong said he wants to find out how marijuana can be used to, "number one, protect individuals from addiction, and number two, potentially use it as a idea to reduce the scourge and negative consequences of the opioid epidemic."
The various ways one can consume cannabis lends itself to different forms of studying its effects, said Fong. "You can eat it, you can smoke it, and with that in mind, there are a lot of interesting potentials that it can be used for."
He added that using vaporizer pens might be a good option, since taking it in this form might deliver a more consistent dose of cannabis than smoking or eating it would.
Fond said it will take money and manpower to start studying this in depth but that the limited research that does exist shows "THC and other cannabinoids in the body can be pretty effective for pain control."
The same limited research also found marijuana users can also fall prey to addiction, just as with opioids.
It's not yet clear whether marijuana can be used to wean addicts off opioids.