UCLA Scientist Awarded $3.5M Grant to Study Pain Relief and Cannabis

The University of California, Los Angeles has received a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the effects of cannabis and cannabinoids for the treatment of pain.

The five-year study, led by research director Dr. Ziva Cooper, will be the first study conducted by UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative (UCLA-CRI) since being founded in 2017 as part of the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Dr. Cooper joined the initiative as the first research director in January. The initiative has been struggling to find good cannabis for research, as the only place that can legally grow cannabis for research is at the University of Mississippi.

“This is an ideal first project as it probes significant public health questions related to the potential medicinal and adverse effects of cannabis and cannabinoids, a central mission of the Initiative,” said Dr. Cooper, professor-in-residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The study will also examine the addictive properties of cannabis, whether men and women experience the effects of cannabis differently and if hormones and the body’s own endocannabinoids play a role in the differences.

“Evidence from animal studies show that females are more sensitive to the pain-relieving benefits of THC, the primary component of cannabis. But they are also more sensitive to the negative effects,” said Dr. Cooper.

Dr. Cooper has previously been involved with research exploring the use of cannabinoids on HIV-associated inflammation, for which she won UCLA’s first HIV Extinction Project Award to support her research.

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