The effectiveness of self-directed medical cannabis treatment for pain

Complementary Therapies in Medicine“The prior medical literature offers little guidance as to how pain relief and side effect manifestation may vary across commonly used and commercially available cannabis product types. We used the largest dataset in the United States of real-time responses to and side effect reporting from patient-directed cannabis consumption sessions for the treatment of pain under naturalistic conditions in order to identify how cannabis affects momentary pain intensity levels and which product characteristics are the best predictors of therapeutic pain relief.

Between 06/06/2016 and 10/24/2018, 2987 people used the ReleafApp to record 20,513 cannabis administration measuring cannabis’ effects on momentary pain intensity levels across five pain categories: musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, nerve, headache-related, or non-specified pain. The average pain reduction was –3.10 points on a 0–10 visual analogue scale (SD = 2.16, d = 1.55, p < .001).

Whole Cannabis flower was associated with greater pain relief than were other types of products, and higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels were the strongest predictors of analgesia and side effects prevalence across the five pain categories. In contrast, cannabidiol (CBD) levels generally were not associated with pain relief except for a negative association between CBD and relief from gastrointestinal and non-specified pain.

These findings suggest benefits from patient-directed, cannabis therapy as a mid-level analgesic treatment; however, effectiveness and side effect manifestation vary with the characteristics of the product used.

The results suggest that Cannabis flower with moderate to high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol is an effective mid-level analgesic.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229919308040

“UNM study confirms cannabis flower is an effective mid-level analgesic medication for pain treatment. Cannabis likely has numerous constituents that possess analgesic properties beyond THC, including terpenes and flavonoids, which likely act synergistically for people that use whole dried cannabis flower, Cannabis offers the average patient an effective alternative to using opioids for general use in the treatment of pain with very minimal negative side effects for most people.”  https://news.unm.edu/news/unm-study-confirms-cannabis-flower-is-an-effective-mid-level-analgesic-medication-for-pain-treatment

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Cannabis Use Motivations among Adults Prescribed Opioids for Pain versus Opioid Addiction.

Pain Management Nursing“Cannabis has been linked to reduced opioid use, although reasons for cannabis use among adults prescribed opioids are unclear.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether motivations for cannabis use differ between adults prescribed opioids for persistent pain versus those receiving opioids as medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

RESULTS:

More than half the sample (n = 122) reported current, daily cannabis use and 63% reported pain as a motivation for use. Adults with persistent pain were more likely to be older, female, and have higher levels of education (p < .05). Adults with opioid use disorder were more likely to report “enhancement” (p < .01) and relief of drug withdrawal symptoms (p < .001) as motivations for cannabis use. The most common reasons for cannabis use in both populations were social and recreational use and pain relief.

CONCLUSIONS:

Both studied populations have unmet health needs motivating them to use cannabis and commonly use cannabis for pain. Persistent pain participants were less likely to use cannabis for euphoric effects or withdrawal purposes. Nurses should assess for cannabis use, provide education on known risks and benefits, and offer options for holistic symptom management.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31375419

https://www.painmanagementnursing.org/article/S1524-9042(19)30096-7/fulltext

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Targeting Cannabinoid Signaling in the Immune System: “High”-ly Exciting Questions, Possibilities, and Challenges

Image result for frontiers in immunology“It is well known that certain active ingredients of the plants of Cannabis genus, i.e., the “phytocannabinoids” [pCBs; e.g., (−)-trans9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), (−)-cannabidiol, etc.] can influence a wide array of biological processes, and the human body is able to produce endogenous analogs of these substances [“endocannabinoids” (eCB), e.g., arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide, AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), etc.]. These ligands, together with multiple receptors (e.g., CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, etc.), and a complex enzyme and transporter apparatus involved in the synthesis and degradation of the ligands constitute the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a recently emerging regulator of several physiological processes. The ECS is widely expressed in the human body, including several members of the innate and adaptive immune system, where eCBs, as well as several pCBs were shown to deeply influence immune functions thereby regulating inflammation, autoimmunity, antitumor, as well as antipathogen immune responses, etc. Based on this knowledge, many in vitro and in vivo studies aimed at exploiting the putative therapeutic potential of cannabinoid signaling in inflammation-accompanied diseases (e.g., multiple sclerosis) or in organ transplantation, and to dissect the complex immunological effects of medical and “recreational” marijuana consumption. Thus, the objective of the current article is (i) to summarize the most recent findings of the field; (ii) to highlight the putative therapeutic potential of targeting cannabinoid signaling; (iii) to identify open questions and key challenges; and (iv) to suggest promising future directions for cannabinoid-based drug development.

Active Components of Cannabis sativa (Hemp)—Phytocannabinoids (pCBs) and Beyond

It is known since ancient times that consumption of different parts of the plant Cannabis sativa can lead to psychotropic effects. Moreover, mostly, but not exclusively because of its potent analgesic actions, it was considered to be beneficial in the management of several diseases. Nowadays it is a common knowledge that these effects were mediated by the complex mixture of biologically active substances produced by the plant. So far, at least 545 active compounds have been identified in it, among which, the best-studied ones are the so-called pCBs. It is also noteworthy that besides these compounds, ca. 140 different terpenes [including the potent and selective CB2 agonist sesquiterpene β-caryophyllene (BCP)], multiple flavonoids, alkanes, sugars, non-cannabinoid phenols, phenylpropanoids, steroids, fatty acids, and various nitrogenous compounds can be found in the plant, individual biological actions of which are mostly still nebulous. Among the so far identified > 100 pCBs, the psychotropic (−)-trans9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the non-psychotropic (−)-cannabidiol (CBD) are the best-studied ones, exerting a wide-variety of biological actions [including but not exclusively: anticonvulsive, analgesic, antiemetic, and anti inflammatory effects]. Of great importance, pCBs have been shown to modulate the activity of a plethora of cellular targets, extending their impact far beyond the “classical” (see above) cannabinoid signaling. Indeed, besides being agonists [or in some cases even antagonists of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, some pCBs were shown to differentially modulate the activity of certain TRP channels, PPARs, serotonin, α adrenergic, adenosine or opioid receptors, and to inhibit COX and lipoxygenase enzymes, FAAH, EMT, etc.. Moreover, from a clinical point-of-view, it should also be noted that pCBs can indirectly modify pharmacokinetics of multiple drugs (e.g., cyclosporine A) by interacting with several cytochrome P 450 (CYP) enzymes. Taken together, pCBs can be considered as multitarget polypharmacons, each of them having unique “molecular fingerprints” created by the characteristic activation/inhibition pattern of its locally available cellular targets.

Concluding Remarks—Lessons to Learn from Cannabis

Research efforts of the past few decades have unambiguously evidenced that ECS is one of the central orchestrators of both innate and adaptive immune systems, and that pure pCBs as well as complex cannabis-derivatives can also deeply influence immune responses. Although, many open questions await to be answered, pharmacological modulation of the (endo)cannabinoid signaling, and restoration of the homeostatic eCB tone of the tissues augur to be very promising future directions in the management of several pathological inflammation-accompanied diseases. Moreover, in depth analysis of the (quite complex) mechanism-of-action of the most promising pCBs is likely to shed light to previously unknown immune regulatory mechanisms and can therefore pave new “high”-ways toward developing completely novel classes of therapeutic agents to manage a wide-variety of diseases.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2017.01487/full

www.frontiersin.org

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Cannabinoids reduce hyperalgesia and inflammation via interaction with peripheral CB1 receptors.

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“Central antinociceptive effects of cannabinoids have been well documented.

Our results indicate that cannabinoids produce antihyperalgesia via interaction with a peripheral CB1 receptor.

This hypothesis is supported by the finding that anandamide inhibited capsaicin-evoked release of calcitonin gene-related peptide from isolated hindpaw skin.

Collectively, these results indicate that cannabinoids reduce inflammation via interaction with a peripheral CB1 receptor.”

“The Endocannabinoid System and Pain. Cannabis has been used for more than twelve thousand years and for many different purposes (i.e. fiber, medicinal, recreational). However, the endocannabinoid signaling system has only recently been the focus of medical research and considered a potential therapeutic target. Cannabinoid receptors and their endogenous ligands are present at supraspinal, spinal and peripheral levels. Cannabinoids suppress behavioral responses to noxious stimulation and suppress nociceptive processing through activation of cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptor subtypes. These studies suggest that manipulation of peripheral endocannabinoids may be promising strategy for the management of pain.”
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2834283/

“The Analgesic Potential of Cannabinoids. Historically and anecdotally cannabinoids have been used as analgesic agents. Moreover, cannabinoids act synergistically with opioids and act as opioid sparing agents, allowing lower doses and fewer side effects from chronic opioid therapy. Thus, rational use of cannabis based medications deserves serious consideration to alleviate the suffering of patients due to severe pain.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3728280/
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Opioid-Sparing Effects of Cannabinoids on Morphine Analgesia: Participation of CB1 and CB2 Receptors.

British Journal of Pharmacology banner“Much of the opioid epidemic arose from abuse of prescription opioid drugs.

This study sought to determine if the combination of a cannabinoid with an opioid could produce additive or synergistic effects on pain, allowing reduction in the opioid dose needed for maximal analgesia.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS:

The ability of a cannabinoid to produce an additive or synergistic effect on analgesia when combined with morphine varies with the pain assay and may be mediated by CB1 or CB2 receptors. These results hold the promise of using cannabinoids to reduce the dose of opioids for analgesia in certain pain conditions.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31218677

https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bph.14769

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Effectiveness and tolerability of THC:CBD oromucosal spray as add-on measure in patients with severe chronic pain: analysis of 12-week open-label real-world data provided by the German Pain e-Registry.

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“Objective: To evaluate effectiveness, tolerability and safety of an oromucosal spray containing Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), as add-on treatment in patients with severe chronic pain (SCP).

Conclusion: THC:CBD oromucosal spray proved to be an effective and well-tolerated add-on treatment for patients with elsewhere refractory chronic pain – especially of neuropathic origin.”

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Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in Fibromyalgia

jcm-logo“Chronic pain may be treated by medical cannabis. Yet, there is scarce evidence to support the role of medical cannabis in the treatment of fibromyalgia. The aim of the study was to investigate the characteristics, safety, and effectiveness of medical cannabis therapy for fibromyalgia.

Results: Among the 367 fibromyalgia patients, the mean age was 52.9 ± 15.1, of whom 301 (82.0%) were women. Twenty eight patients (7.6%) stopped the treatment prior to the six months follow-up. The six months response rate was 70.8%. Pain intensity (scale 0–10) reduced from a median of 9.0 at baseline to 5.0 (p < 0.001), and 194 patients (81.1%) achieved treatment response. In a multivariate analysis, age above 60 years (odds ratio [OR] 0.34, 95% C.I 0.16–0.72), concerns about cannabis treatment (OR 0.36, 95% C.I 0.16–0.80), spasticity (OR 2.26, 95% C.I 1.08–4.72), and previous use of cannabis (OR 2.46 95% C.I 1.06–5.74) were associated with treatment outcome. The most common adverse effects were mild and included dizziness (7.9%), dry mouth (6.7%), and gastrointestinal symptoms (5.4%).

Conclusion: Medical cannabis appears to be a safe and effective alternative for the treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms. Standardization of treatment compounds and regimens are required.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/8/6/807

“Medical cannabis appears to be a safe and effective alternative for the treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31195754

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Age-related differences in Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol-induced antinociception in female and male rats.

Cover image for Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology

“Given the use of cannabis as an analgesic by a broadening age range of patients, the aim of this study was to determine whether the antinociceptive effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) differ by age.

On the tail withdrawal test, THC was significantly more effective in middle-aged adult than in young adult rats and significantly less effective in adolescent than in young adult rats.

Sex differences in THC’s antinociceptive effects were consistent across the 3 ages examined, with greater THC effects observed in females than males of each age. Age-related differences in THC’s locomotor-suppressing effect were also observed, with the greatest effect in young adult female rats. Serum THC levels were slightly higher in adolescent than in young adult rats, and levels of the active metabolites 11-OH-THC and cannabinol, as well as the inactive metabolite 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC, did not differ between adolescent and young adult rats.

These results suggest that the pain-relieving effects of THC may be more limited in adolescents than in adults and that these age-related differences in THC effect are not attributable to differential absorption or metabolism of THC.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31120286

https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fpha0000257

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Effects of cannabinoid administration for pain: A meta-analysis and meta-regression.

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“Chronic pain states have resulted in an overreliance on opioid pain relievers, which can carry significant risks when used long term. As such, alternative pain treatments are increasingly desired.

Although emerging research suggests that cannabinoids have therapeutic potential regarding pain, results from studies across pain populations have been inconsistent. To provide meta-analytic clarification regarding cannabis’s impact on subjective pain, we identified studies that assessed drug-induced pain modulations under cannabinoid and corresponding placebo conditions.

Results revealed that cannabinoid administration produced a medium-to-large effect across included studies, Cohen’s d = -0.58, 95% confidence interval (CI) [-0.74, -0.43], while placebo administration produced a small-to-medium effect, Cohen’s d = -0.39, 95% CI [-0.52, -0.26]. Meta-regression revealed that cannabinoids, β = -0.43, 95% CI [-0.62, -0.24], p < .05, synthetic cannabinoids, β = -0.39, 95% CI [-0.65, -0.14], p < .05, and sample size, β = 0.01, 95% CI [0.00, 0.01], p < .05, were associated with marked pain reduction.

These outcomes suggest that cannabinoid-based pharmacotherapies may serve as effective replacement/adjunctive options regarding pain, however, additional research is warranted.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31120281

https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fpha0000281

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Cannabinoid interactions with ion channels and receptors.

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“Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component of Cannabis sativa, acts on a diverse selection of membrane proteins with promising therapeutic potential in epilepsy and chronic pain. In this review, we will outline the studies that report reproducible results of CBD and other cannabinoids changing membrane channel function, with particular interest on Nav. Nav are implicated in fatal forms of epilepsy and are also associated with chronic pain. This makes Nav potential targets for CBD interaction since it has been reported to reduce pain and seizures. This discovery will not only prompt further research towards CBD’s characterization, but also promotes the application of cannabinoids as potentially therapeutic compounds for diseases like epilepsy and pain.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31088312
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19336950.2019.1615824

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