Narrator: This is Science Today. A synthetic drug that mimics marijuana was found to directly affect part of the brain that regulates pain. Researcher Ian Meng says this University of California, San Francisco study validates anecdotal reports about patients easing their pain with marijuana.
Meng: I wanted to know, is there a real basis, a scientific basis why this drug may be helping people or is it simply a placebo effect? Do people just think that it's going to work and so therefore it works, or is there some real basis for its actions?
Narrator: Meng found there is a real basis - these synthetic drugs, known as cannabinoids, tap into the brain circuitry which controls pain signals. The effect is similar to morphine, but without the side effects of nausea or respiratory problems. Cannabinoids, however, do cause a loss of motor coordination.
Meng: So it may be possible that you could increase the painkilling effects of these drugs by using them in combination - using lower doses of each so that you actually can get rid of some of the side effects that you don't want.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.