Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol for Pain Treatment-An Update on the Evidence

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“In light of the current International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) and the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) guidelines, the topic of cannabinoids in relation to pain remains controversial, with insufficient research presently available.

Cannabinoids are an attractive pain management option due to their synergistic effects when administered with opioids, thereby also limiting the extent of respiratory depression.

On their own, however, cannabinoids have been shown to have the potential to relieve specific subtypes of chronic pain in adults, although controversies remain. Among these subtypes are neuropathic, musculoskeletal, cancer, and geriatric pain.

Another interesting feature is their effectiveness in chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). Analgesic benefits are hypothesized to extend to HIV-associated neuropathic pain, as well as to lower back pain in the elderly.

The aim of this article is to provide an up-to-date review of the existing preclinical as well as clinical studies, along with relevant systematic reviews addressing the roles of various types of cannabinoids in neuropathic pain settings. The impact of cannabinoids in chronic cancer pain and in non-cancer conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and headaches, are all discussed, as well as novel techniques of administration and relevant mechanisms of action.”



Suppression of neuropathic pain in the circadian clock-deficient Per2m/m mice involves up-regulation of endocannabinoid system

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“Neuropathic pain often results from injuries and diseases that affect the somatosensory system. Disruption of the circadian clock has been implicated in the exacerbation of the neuropathic pain state. However, in this study, we report that mice deficient in a core clock component Period2 (Per2m/m mice) fail to develop tactile pain hypersensitivity even following peripheral nerve injury. Similar to male wild-type mice, partial sciatic nerve ligation (PSL)-Per2m/m male mice showed activation of glial cells in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and increased expression of pain-related genes. Interestingly, α1D-adrenergic receptor (α1D-AR) expression was up-regulated in the spinal cord of Per2m/m mice, leading to increased production of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), an endocannabinoid receptor ligand. This increase in 2-AG suppressed the PSL-induced tactile pain hypersensitivity. Furthermore, intraspinal dorsal horn injection of adeno-associated viral vectors expressing α1D-AR also attenuated pain hypersensitivity in PSL-wild-type male mice by increasing 2-AG production.

Our findings reveal an uncovered role of the circadian clock in neuropathic pain disorders and suggest a link between α1D-AR signaling and the endocannabinoid system.”



Antinociceptive Effects of Cannabichromene (CBC) in Mice: Insights from von Frey, Tail-Flick, Formalin, and Acetone Tests

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“Cannabis sativa contains minor cannabinoids that have potential therapeutic value in pain management. However, detailed experimental evidence for the antinociceptive effects of many of these minor cannabinoids remains lacking. Here, we employed artificial intelligence (AI) to perform compound-protein interaction estimates with cannabichromene (CBC) and receptors involved in nociceptive signaling.

Based on our findings, we investigated the antinociceptive properties of CBC in naïve or neuropathic C57BL/6 male and female mice using von Frey (mechanical allodynia), tail-flick (noxious radiant heat), formalin (acute and persistent inflammatory pain), and acetone (cold thermal) tests. For von Frey assessments, CBC dose (0-20 mg/kg, i.p.) and time (0-6 h) responses were measured in male and female neuropathic mice. For tail-flick, formalin, and acetone assays, CBC (20 mg/kg, i.p.) was administered to naïve male and female mice 1 h prior to testing.

The results show that CBC (10 and 20 mg/kg, i.p.) significantly reduced mechanical allodynia in neuropathic male and female mice 1-2 h after treatment. Additionally, CBC treatment caused significant reductions in nociceptive behaviors in the tail-flick assay and in both phase 1 and phase 2 of the formalin test. Finally, we found a significant interaction in neuropathic male mice in the acetone test.

In conclusion, our results suggest that CBC targets receptors involved in nociceptive signaling and imparts antinociceptive properties that may benefit males and females afflicted with diverse forms of acute or chronic/persistent pain.”



The Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol in Revolutionising Opioid Use Disorder Management

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“Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and is linked to a complex interplay of biopsychosocial factors as well as the increasing overprescription and availability of opioid medications. Current OUD management relies on the controlled provision of opioid medications, such as methadone or buprenorphine, known as opioid replacement therapy. There is variable evidence regarding the long-term efficacy of these medications in improving the management of OUD, thereby necessitating an exploration into innovative approaches to complement, or even take the place of, existing treatment paradigms.

Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound derived from the cannabis plant, has garnered attention for its diverse pharmacological properties, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anxiolytic effects. Preliminary studies suggest that CBD may target opioid withdrawal pathways that make CBD a potential therapeutic option for OUD.

This narrative review synthesises current literature surrounding OUD and offers a nuanced review of the current and future role of CBD in managing this condition. In doing so, we highlight the potential avenues to explore with respect to CBD research for the guidance and development of further research opportunities, framework and policy development, and clinical considerations before medicinal CBD can be integrated into evidence-based clinical guidelines.”



The impact of cannabis on non-medical opioid use among individuals receiving pharmacotherapies for opioid use disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies

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“Background: The relationship between cannabis use and the risk of returning to using opioids non-medically during treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) remains unclear.

Objective: We sought to quantify the impact of cannabis use on the risk of non-medical opioid use among people receiving pharmacotherapies for OUD.

Methods: A comprehensive search was performed using multiple databases from March 1 to April 5 of 2023. Eligible studies longitudinally assessed the association between cannabis use and non-medical opioid use among people with OUD receiving treatment with buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone. We utilized a random-effects model employing the restricted maximum likelihood method. A sensitivity analysis was conducted to understand potential differences between each OUD treatment modality.

Results: A total of 10 studies were included in the final meta-analysis. There were 8,367 participants (38% female). The average follow-up time across these studies was 9.7 months (SD = 3.77), ranging from 4 to 15 months. The pharmacotherapies involved were methadone (76.3%) buprenorphine (21.3%), and naltrexone (2.4%). The pooled odds ratio did not indicate that cannabis use significantly influenced non-medical opioid use (OR: 1.00, 95% CI: 0.97-1.04, p = .98). There is evidence of moderate heterogeneity and publication bias.

Conclusion: There was no significant association between cannabis use and non-medical opioid use among patients receiving pharmacotherapies for OUD. These findings neither confirm concerns about cannabis increasing non-medical opioid use during MOUD, nor do they endorse its efficacy in decreasing non-medical opioid use with MOUD.

This indicates a need for individualized approaches for cannabis use and challenges the requirement of cannabis abstinence to maintain OUD pharmacotherapies.”



Overview: Chronic Pain and Cannabis-Based Medicines

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“Chronic pain is primarily conceptualized as a disease in its own right when it is associated with emotional distress and functional impairment. Pathophysiologically, dysfunction of the cortico-mesolimbic connectome is of major importance, with overlapping signals in the nociceptive and stress systems.

The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in the central processing of nociceptive signals and regulates the central stress response. Clinically, there is moderate evidence that cannabis-based medicines (CBM) can contribute to a significant reduction in pain, especially the associated pain effect, and improvement in physical function and sleep quality in a proportion of patients with chronic pain.

The analgesic effect appears to be largely independent of the cause of pain. In this context, CBM preferentially regulates stress-associated pain processing.”



A preliminary study evaluating self-reported effects of cannabis and cannabinoids on neuropathic pain and pain medication use in people with spinal cord injury

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“Approximately 60% of individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI) experience neuropathic pain, which often persists despite the use of various pharmacological treatments. Increasingly, the potential analgesic effects of cannabis and cannabinoid products have been studied; however, little research has been conducted among those with SCI-related neuropathic pain. Therefore, the primary objective of the study was to investigate the perceived effects of cannabis and cannabinoid use on neuropathic pain among those who were currently or had previously used these approaches. Additionally, the study aimed to determine if common pain medications are being substituted by cannabis and cannabinoids. Participants (N = 342) were recruited from existing opt-in listserv sources within the United States. Of those, 227 met the inclusion criteria and were enrolled in the study. The participants took part in an anonymous online survey regarding past and current use of cannabis and their perceived effects on neuropathic pain, including the use of pain medication. Those in the sample reported average neuropathic pain intensity scores over the past week of 6.8 ± 2.1 (0 to 10 scale), reflecting a high moderate to severe level of pain. Additionally, 87.9% noted that cannabis reduced their neuropathic pain intensity by more than 30%, and 92.3% reported that cannabis helped them to better deal with their neuropathic pain symptoms. Most participants (83.3%) also reported substituting their pain medications with cannabis, with the most substituted medication categories being opioids (47.0%), gabapentinoids (42.8%) and over-the-counter pain medications (42.2%). These preliminary results suggest that cannabis and cannabinoids may be effective in reducing neuropathic pain among those with SCI and may help to limit the need for certain pain medications.”



Phytocannabinoids for the Treatment of Neuropathic Pain: A Scoping Review of Randomised Controlled Trials Published Between 2012 and 2023

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“Purpose of review: Neuropathic pain (NP) remains a challenge to treat, with 50% of patients experiencing limited efficacy from current treatments. Medicinal cannabis, which contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and other minor cannabinoids, is garnering attention as an alternative treatment for NP. This paper reviews the clinical evidence for phytocannabinoid treatment of NP.

Recent findings: Seventeen randomised controlled trials (RCT) were identified for inclusion in this review. Of these, ten studies using phytocannabinoid preparations containing THC alone had the most evidence for pain relief. Four studies investigating THC/CBD combinations showed some reductions in pain scores, although not all findings were statistically significant, whereas studies investigating CBD (two studies) or cannabidivarin (one study) showed no analgesic effect over placebo. However, CBD studies were of small sample size when compared to other studies in the review and short duration. Results for treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy patients with THC showed better improvements over those for NP induced by chemotherapy and multiple sclerosis, with these trials using vaporised whole plant cannabis. This formulation may have trace amounts of other minor cannabinoids, compared with synthetic cannabinoids such as dronabinol or nabilone that were investigated in other studies. This review provides an overview of RCTs that have investigated phytocannabinoid use for the treatment of NP. There appears to be evidence to necessitate further high quality RCTs into novel formulations of phytocannabinoids for the treatment of NP.”



Medical Cannabis: A Review from the American Society of Pain and Neuroscience

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“Cannabinoids have recently gained a renewed interest due to their potential applicability to various medical conditions, specifically the management of chronic pain conditions.

Unlike many other medications, medical cannabis is not associated with serious adverse events, and no overdose deaths have been reported.

However, both safety and efficacy data for medical cannabis treatment of chronic, nonmalignant pain conditions are lacking. Therefore, representatives from the American Society of Pain and Neuroscience summarize the evidence, according to level and grade, for medical cannabis treatment of several different pain conditions. Treatment of cancer-related pain has prospective evidentiary support for the use of medical cannabis. Although 3 large and well-designed randomized controlled trials investigated cannabis treatment of cancer-related pain, the evidence yielded only a grade D recommendation. Neuropathic pain has been investigated in prospective studies, but a lack of high-quality evidence renders cannabis treatment for this indication a grade C recommendation. Both safety and efficacy data are lacking for use of medical cannabis to treat chronic nonmalignant pain conditions.”



Relief of nocturnal neuropathic pain with the use of cannabis in a patient with Fabry disease

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“Neuropathic pain is one of the most invalidating symptoms in patients with Fabry disease (FD), affecting their quality of life, it is linked to small fiber neuropathy and it may not respond to available disease specific treatments. We report the case of a 32 years old man with classic FD and severe neuropathic pain who, after the failure of several standard pharmaceutical approaches, was treated with medical cannabis with relief of nocturnal pain and sleep improvement.”


“In conclusion: although more evidence is needed, this case report suggests that the use of medical cannabis could be considered as a pain treatment option for patient with FD, in particular for nocturnal pain relief, when other pharmacological approaches have failed.”