Health Outcomes among Adults Initiating Medical Cannabis for Chronic Pain: A 3-month Prospective Study Incorporating Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA)

“In response to the need of more rigorous data on medical cannabis and chronic pain, we conducted a 3-month prospective study incorporating ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to examine the effects of medical cannabis on pain, anxiety/depression, sleep, and quality of life.

Data were collected from 46 adults (Mean age=55.7±11.9, 52.2% male) newly initiating medical cannabis treatment for chronic pain. Participants completed a baseline survey, EMA for approximately 1 week pre- and up to 3 weeks post- medical cannabis treatment, and a 3-month follow-up survey.

The self-reported EMA data (2535 random and 705 daily assessments) indicated significant reductions in momentary pain intensity (b = -16.5, p < .001, 16.5 points reduction on 0-100 visual analog) and anxiety (b = -0.89, p < .05), and significant increase in daily sleep duration (b = 0.34, p < .01) and sleep quality (b = 0.32, p <.001) after participants initiated medical cannabis for a few weeks.

At 3 months, self-reported survey data showed significantly lower levels of worst pain (t = -2.38, p < .05), pain interference (t = -3.82, p < .05), and depression (t = -3.43, p < .01), as well as increased sleep duration (t = 3.95, p < .001), sleep quality (t = -3.04, p < .01), and quality of life (t = 4.48, p < .001) compared to baseline.

In our sample of primarily middle-aged and older adults with chronic pain, medical cannabis was associated with reduced pain intensity/inference, lower anxiety/depression, and improved sleep and quality of life.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34671723/

https://publications.sciences.ucf.edu/cannabis/index.php/Cannabis/article/view/97

Analgesic Potential of Terpenes Derived from Cannabis sativa

Pharmacological Reviews“Pain prevalence among adults in the United States has increased 25% over the past two decades, resulting in high health-care costs and impacts to patient quality of life. In the last 30 years, our understanding of pain circuits and (intra)cellular mechanisms has grown exponentially, but this understanding has not yet resulted in improved therapies. Options for pain management are limited. Many analgesics have poor efficacy and are accompanied by severe side effects such as addiction, resulting in a devastating opioid abuse and overdose epidemic. These problems have encouraged scientists to identify novel molecular targets and develop alternative pain therapeutics.

Increasing preclinical and clinical evidence suggests that cannabis has several beneficial pharmacological activities, including pain relief.

Cannabis sativa contains more than 500 chemical compounds, with two principle phytocannabinoids, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Beyond phytocannabinoids, more than 150 terpenes have been identified in different cannabis chemovars. Although the predominant cannabinoids, Δ9-THC and CBD, are thought to be the primary medicinal compounds, terpenes including the monoterpenes β-myrcene, α-pinene, limonene, and linalool, as well as the sesquiterpenes β-caryophyllene and α-humulene may contribute to many pharmacological properties of cannabis, including anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects.

The aim of this review is to summarize our current knowledge about terpene compounds in cannabis and to analyze the available scientific evidence for a role of cannabis-derived terpenes in modern pain management.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Decades of research have improved our knowledge of cannabis polypharmacy and contributing phytochemicals, including terpenes. Reform of the legal status for cannabis possession and increased availability (medicinal and recreational) have resulted in cannabis use to combat the increasing prevalence of pain and may help to address the opioid crisis. Better understanding of the pharmacological effects of cannabis and its active components, including terpenes, may assist in identifying new therapeutic approaches and optimizing the use of cannabis and/or terpenes as analgesic agents.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34663685/

“Cannabis sativa has been used for medical, recreational, and spiritual purposes for thousands of years. Modern scientific studies have provided increasing amounts of preclinical and clinical evidence about its beneficial pharmacological effects, including pain relief. Recent changes in the legislation of cannabis usage and possession have resulted in cannabis-based products becoming widely used alternatives in fighting against many different illnesses. Medical marijuana has been applied to treat a host of indications, but the most frequent, and evidence-backed indication, is pain. Overall, cannabis terpenes have a high potential for pain management, alone or as adjunctive therapeutics, and are attractive compounds for the development of terpene-based analgesics given their generally-recognized-as-safe status with low side effect and toxicity profiles.”

Green Hope: Perspectives on Cannabis from People who Use Opioids

Sociological Inquiry“While states are implementing policies to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, it remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance with no medical uses according to US federal law. The perception of cannabis depends on social and cultural norms that impact political institutions involved in implementing policy. Because of negative social constructions, such as the “gateway hypothesis,” legalization of cannabis has been slow and contentious.

Recent studies suggest that cannabis can help combat the opioid epidemic.

This paper fills a gap in our understanding of how cannabis is viewed by people who are actively misusing opioids and not in treatment. Using ethnographic methods to recruit participants living in a state that legalized cannabis and a state where cannabis was illegal, survey and interview data were analyzed informed by a social constructionist lens.

Findings from their “insider perspective” suggest that for some people struggling with problematic opioid use, cannabis can be beneficial.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34538961/

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/soin.12359

The Effect of Medical Cannabis on Pain Level and Quality of Sleep among Rheumatology Clinic Outpatients

logo“Introduction: Medical cannabis (MC) is becoming increasingly popular for the treatment of chronic pain conditions.

In this study, we evaluated the effect of MC treatment on pain level and quality of sleep of patients with different medical conditions at the rheumatology clinic.

Conclusions: MC had a favorable effect on pain level and quality of sleep among all spectrums of problems at the rheumatology clinic.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34531934/

“MC has a favorable effect on pain level and sleep quality among nearly the entire spectrum of resistant “chronic pain syndromes” seen or referred to rheumatology clinics, including inflammatory diseases resistant to biological treatment, although the effect of MC on synovitis was relatively mild.

Cannabis should be seriously considered in every “chronic pain condition” whenever the accepted modalities of treatment are insufficient for alleviating patient’s pain and sleep problems.”

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/prm/2021/1756588/

The Endocannabinoid System: A Potential Target for the Treatment of Various Diseases

ijms-logo“The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is primarily responsible for maintaining homeostasis, a balance in internal environment (temperature, mood, and immune system) and energy input and output in living, biological systems.

In addition to regulating physiological processes, the ECS directly influences anxiety, feeding behaviour/appetite, emotional behaviour, depression, nervous functions, neurogenesis, neuroprotection, reward, cognition, learning, memory, pain sensation, fertility, pregnancy, and pre-and post-natal development.

The ECS is also involved in several pathophysiological diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases. In recent years, genetic and pharmacological manipulation of the ECS has gained significant interest in medicine, research, and drug discovery and development.

The distribution of the components of the ECS system throughout the body, and the physiological/pathophysiological role of the ECS-signalling pathways in many diseases, all offer promising opportunities for the development of novel cannabinergic, cannabimimetic, and cannabinoid-based therapeutic drugs that genetically or pharmacologically modulate the ECS via inhibition of metabolic pathways and/or agonism or antagonism of the receptors of the ECS. This modulation results in the differential expression/activity of the components of the ECS that may be beneficial in the treatment of a number of diseases.

This manuscript in-depth review will investigate the potential of the ECS in the treatment of various diseases, and to put forth the suggestion that many of these secondary metabolites of Cannabis sativa L. (hereafter referred to as “C. sativa L.” or “medical cannabis”), may also have potential as lead compounds in the development of cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals for a variety of diseases.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34502379/

https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/22/17/9472

Risk and benefit of cannabis prescription for chronic non-cancer pain

Taylor and Francis Online“Objectives: We investigated whether cannabis usage was associated with reduced opioid usage, and the rates of opioid and cannabis use disorders among chronic pain patients who had been prescribed medical cannabis.

Results: Of the 100 participants aged 18-70 years (compliance 67% (aged >40) and 33% (aged ≤ 40y)), 76 ever used opioids. Of them, 93% decreased or stopped opioids following cannabis initiation. Ten patients (10%), 17.4% of the ≤40 y age group, met the criteria for cannabis use disorder. Compared to those who did not meet the criteria, their lifetime depression was higher (80% vs. 43.2%, respectively, P=.042), and they were less educated (12.2 ± 0.6y vs. 13.5 ± 2.1y, p = 0.05).

Conclusions: Cannabis usage was associated with reduced opioid usage. The prevalence of cannabis use disorder was high among the younger participants who also had a lower study compliance rate, suggesting the higher actual prevalence of cannabis use disorder. While medical cannabis may help reduce opioid use in chronic non-cancer pain patients, younger age, depression, and other risk factors should be carefully evaluated before cannabis is prescribed.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34338621/

“Cannabis usage was associated with reduced opioid usage.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10550887.2021.1956673?journalCode=wjad20

Prolonged Medical Cannabis Treatment is Associated With Quality of Life Improvement and Reduction of Analgesic Medication Consumption in Chronic Pain Patients

Frontiers in Pharmacology (@FrontPharmacol) | Twitter“Introduction: Chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) is one of the most prevalent indications for medical cannabis (MC) treatment globally. In this study, we investigated CNCP parameters in patients during prolonged MC treatment, and assessed the interrelation between CNCP parameters and the chemical composition of MC chemovar used. 

Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire-based study was performed in one-month intervals for the duration of six months. Subjects were adult patients licensed for MC treatment who also reported a diagnosis of CNCP by a physician. Data included self-reported questionnaires. MC treatment features included administration route, cultivator, cultivar name and monthly dose. Comparison statistics were used to evaluate differences between the abovementioned parameters and the monthly MC chemovar doses at each time point. 

Results: 429, 150, 98, 71, 77 and 82 patients reported fully on their MC treatment regimens at six one-month intervals, respectively. Although pain intensities did not change during the study period, analgesic medication consumption rates decreased from 46 to 28% (p < 0.005) and good Quality of Life (QoL) rates increased from 49 to 62% (p < 0.05). These changes overlapped with increase in rates of (-)-Δ9trans-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and α-pinene high dose consumption. 

Conclusion: Even though we observed that pain intensities did not improve during the study, QoL did improve and the rate of analgesic medication consumption decreased alongside with increasing rates of high dose THC and α-pinene consumption. Understanding MC treatment composition may shed light on its long-term effects.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34093173/

“In this study, although pain intensities did not change under long-term MC treatment, analgesic medication consumption rates decreased and ‘better’ QoL rates increased. These changes coincided with the increased rates of patients’ consumption of high dose THC and α pinene. These results may shed light on the long-term beneficial effects of MC on CNCP.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.613805/full

A Large-Scale Naturalistic Examination of the Acute Effects of Cannabis on Pain

View details for Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research cover image“Cannabis use for pain relief is commonly reported, yet laboratory studies and clinical trials suggest that cannabinoids are weak analgesics, and it is unclear whether perceived reductions in pain from before to after cannabis use relate to factors such as dose, method of administration, phytocannabinoid content, or the age or gender of the user. We determined whether inhalation of cannabis decreased self-reported pain ratings as well as whether user gender, age, time, method of administration, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)/cannabidiol (CBD) content, or dose of cannabis contribute to changes in these ratings. We also examined whether tolerance may develop to the analgesic effects of cannabis over time.

Results: For all three pain symptoms, severity ratings decreased significantly after cannabis use. Women reported higher baseline and postcannabis pain severity than did men, and men reported larger decreases in pain than did women. Neither THC nor CBD content nor their interaction predicted reductions in pain ratings. However, vaping was associated with larger reductions in joint pain ratings than was smoking, and lower doses were associated with larger reductions in nerve pain ratings. Additionally, for all three pain symptoms, the dose of cannabis used to manage pain increased significantly over time.

Conclusions: Inhaled cannabis reduces self-reported pain severity by ∼42–49%. However, these reductions appear to diminish across time, and patients use larger doses across time, suggesting that analgesic tolerance develops with continued use.”

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/can.2020.0068?journalCode=can

“Inhaled Cannabis Associated with Significant Reductions in Self-Reported Pain Severity”

A Survey on the Effect That Medical Cannabis Has on Prescription Opioid Medication Usage for the Treatment of Chronic Pain at Three Medical Cannabis Practice Sites

Cureus | LinkedIn“Objective: The opioid epidemic continues to claim thousands of lives every year without an effective strategy useful in mitigating mortality. The use of medical cannabis has been proposed as a potential strategy to decrease opioid usage. The objective of this study was to determine how the use of medical cannabis affects prescribed opioid usage in chronic pain patients.

Methods: We conducted an online convenience sample survey of patients from three medical cannabis practice sites who had reported using opioids. A total of 1181 patients responded, 656 were excluded for not using medical cannabis in combination with opioid use or not meeting the definition of chronic pain, leaving 525 patients who had used prescription opioid medications continuously for at least three months to treat chronic pain and were using medical cannabis in combination with their prescribed opioid use.

Results: Overall, 40.4% (n=204) reported that they stopped all opioids, 45.2% (n=228) reported some decrease in their opioid usage, 13.3% (n=67) reported no change in opioid usage, and 1.1% (n=6) reported an increase in opioid usage. The majority (65.3%, n=299) reported that they sustained the opioid change for over a year. Almost half (48.2%, n=241) reported a 40-100% decrease in pain while 8.6% (n=43) had no change in pain and 2.6% (n=13) had worsening pain. The majority reported improved ability to function (80.0%, n=420) and improved quality of life (87.0%, n=457) with medical cannabis. The majority (62.8%, n=323) did not want to take opioids in the future. While the change in pain level was not affected by age and gender, the younger age group had improved ability to function compared with the middle and older age groups.

Conclusions: Patients in this study reported that cannabis was a useful adjunct and substitute for prescription opioids in treating their chronic pain and had the added benefit of improving the ability to function and quality of life.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33409086/

“Our results show a remarkable percentage of patients both reporting complete cessation of opioids and decreasing opioid usage by the addition of medical cannabis, with results lasting for over a year for the majority. Additional benefits of medical cannabis included improved ability to function and improved quality of life, especially for the younger age group. We believe our results lend further support that medical cannabis provided in a standardized protocol can lead to decreased pain and opioid usage, improved function, and quality of life measures, and even complete cessation of opioids in patients with chronic pain treated by opioids.”

https://www.cureus.com/articles/41928-a-survey-on-the-effect-that-medical-cannabis-has-on-prescription-opioid-medication-usage-for-the-treatment-of-chronic-pain-at-three-medical-cannabis-practice-sites

Cannabis use is associated with reduced risk of exposure to fentanyl among people on opioid agonist therapy during a community-wide overdose crisis

Drug and Alcohol Dependence “Background: The ongoing opioid overdose crisis is driven largely by exposure to illicitly-manufactured fentanyl. Preliminary observational and experimental research suggests that cannabis could potentially play a role in reducing use of prescription opioids among individuals with chronic pain. However, there is limited data on the effects of cannabis on illicit opioid consumption, particularly fentanyl, especially among individuals on opioid agonist therapy (OAT). We sought to assess the longitudinal association between cannabis use and exposure to fentanyl among people on OAT.

Results: Among the 819 participants on OAT who contributed 1989 observations over the study period, fentanyl exposure was common. At the baseline interview, fentanyl was detected in a majority of participants (431, 53 %), with lower prevalence among individuals with urine drug tests positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (47 vs. 56 %, p = 0.028). Over all study interviews, cannabis use was independently associated with reduced likelihood of being recently exposed to fentanyl (Adjusted Prevalence Ratio = 0.91, 95 % Confidence Interval: 0.83 – 0.99).

Conclusions: Participants on OAT using cannabis had significantly lower risk of being exposed to fentanyl. Our findings reinforce the need for experimental trials to investigate the potential benefits and risks of controlled cannabinoid administration for people on OAT.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33342591/

“Opioid agonist therapies (OAT) are the primary treatments for opioid use disorder. Exposure to fentanyl is driving mortality risk in the overdose crisis. Among 819 participants on OAT, cannabis was negatively associated with fentanyl. Experimental trials are needed to evaluate cannabis use during OAT.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871620305858?via%3Dihub

“Cannabis could reduce fentanyl use, reduce overdose risk: study” https://www.bccsu.ca/blog/news-release/cannabis-could-reduce-fentanyl-use-reduce-overdose-risk-study/

“Cannabis could reduce fentanyl use, reduce overdose risk” https://www.med.ubc.ca/news/cannabis-could-reduce-fentanyl-use-reduce-overdose-risk/