Monday, October 1, 2018

How cannabinoid drugs affect the experience of pain

A first-of-its-kind meta-analysis of existing research has reviewed the effects of cannabinoid drugs on the experience of pain.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that up to 50 million people in the United States have chronic pain. An increasing amount of people now turn to the medicinal benefits of cannabis for treating and alleviating pain. As a result, scientists are trying to keep up by studying the effects of cannabinoids on pain. So far, however, studies have produced mixed results. A recent study that spanned over 4 years found “no evidence” that cannabis alleviates chronic pain that is not associated with cancer.

New research puts forth an interesting explanation for why the current clinical evidence does not fully support the popularity of cannabis as a painkiller and people’s subjective accounts of its benefits. It may be that the “feel-good” factor in the use of cannabis and cannabinoid drugs makes pain “more tolerable” and “less unpleasant,” suggests the new study, and that the benefits of cannabinoid drugs may operate more on an affective level rather than a sensory one.

To help clarify the analgesic properties, Martin De vita, a doctoral researcher at Syracuse University and colleagues examined over 1,830 experimental studies on the effects of cannabinoids that were carried out over a 40-year period. The study was recently published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

The results revealed that cannabinoid drugs correlated with “modest increases in experimental pain threshold and tolerance,” and a reduction in the “perceived unpleasantness of painful stimuli.”

“What this means is that cannabinoid analgesia may be drive by an affective, rather than a sensory component. These findings have implications for understanding the analgesic properties of cannabinoids.” – Martin De Vita

My Take:
Studies on marijuana and the active components – THC and CBD, have been limited by its’ classification as a schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Joining marijuana in this classification are heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.

By contrast, oxycodone and cocaine are schedule II drugs, considered additive and dangerous, but having some medicinal value. You know them as OxyContin and Vicodin. Marijuana is still considered a gateway drug to heroin use although we all know that title belongs to the prescription drug OxyContin. Over 75,000 deaths in the U.S. last year were attributed to OxyContin use.

Bottom Line:
The federal government needs to remove marijuana from the schedule I drug classification and facilitate studies into the medical benefits of marijuana.

Source: September 21, 2018 NIH

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