The holistic effects of medical cannabis compared to opioids on pain experience in Finnish patients with chronic pain

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“Background: Medical cannabis (MC) is increasingly used for chronic pain, but it is unclear how it aids in pain management. Previous literature suggests that MC could holistically alter the pain experience instead of only targeting pain intensity. However, this hypothesis has not been previously systematically tested.

Method: A retrospective internet survey was used in a sample of Finnish chronic pain patients (40 MC users and 161 opioid users). The patients evaluated statements describing positive and negative phenomenological effects of the medicine. The two groups were propensity score matched to control for possible confounding factors.

Results: Exploratory factor analysis revealed three experience factors: Negative Side Effects, Positive Holistic Effects, and Positive Emotional Effects. The MC group (matched n = 39) received higher scores than the opioid group (matched n = 39) in Positive Emotional Effects with large effect size (Rank-Biserial Correlation RBC = .71, p < .001), and in Holistic Positive Effects with medium effect size (RBC = .47, p < .001), with no difference in Negative Side Effects (p = .13). MC and opioids were perceived as equally efficacious in reducing pain intensity. Ratings of individual statements were exploratively examined in a post hoc analysis.

Conclusion: MC and opioids were perceived to be equally efficacious in reducing pain intensity, but MC additionally positively affected broader pain-related factors such as emotion, functionality, and overall sense of wellbeing. This supports the hypothesis that MC alleviates pain through holistically altering the pain experience.”

“The results of the present study support the hypothesis that the effects of MC on pain experience are more holistic than those of opioids. MC may alleviate pain through affecting a broad range of pain-related experience experiental factors such as relaxation, improved sleep and mood, being able not to react to the pain, as well as a sense of control. These holistic effects of MC could explain the inconsistencies in clinical trials, where focus has mainly been on pain intensity instead of broader pain phenomenology. The results highlight the importance of taking these holistic effects into account in treating patients with MC, considering them as part of the therapeutic process.”

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type I: Evidence for the CB1 and CB2 Receptors Immunocontent and Beneficial Effect of Local Administration of Cannabidiol in Mice

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“Introduction: Complex regional pain syndrome type I (CRPS-I) is a debilitating neuropathic painful condition associated with allodynia, hyperalgesia, sudomotor and/or vasomotor dysfunctions, turning investigation of its pathophysiology and new therapeutic strategies into an essential topic. We aim to investigate the impact of ischemia/reperfusion injury on the immunocontent of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor isoforms in the paws of mice submitted to a chronic postischemia pain (CPIP) model and the effects of local administration of cannabidiol (CBD) on mechanical hyperalgesia. 

Methods: Female Swiss mice, 30-35 g, were submitted to the CPIP model on the right hind paw. Skin and muscle samples were removed at different periods for western blot analysis. 

Results: No changes in the immunocontent of CB1 and CB2 receptors in paw muscle tissues after ischemia-reperfusion were observed. CBD promoted an antihyperalgesic effect in both phases. AM281 reversed the effect of CBD, whereas ruthenium red abolished the late phase. 

Conclusion: Our results point to the possible beneficial effects of local administration of CBD in modulating CRPS-I in humans. As possible targets for CBD antihyperalgesia in this model, the contribution of cannabinoid receptor CB1, in addition to TRPM8 is suggested.”

Chronic Cannabigerol as an Effective Therapeutic for Cisplatin-Induced Neuropathic Pain

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“Cannabigerol (CBG), derived from the cannabis plant, acts as an acute analgesic in a model of cisplatin-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) in mice. There are no curative, long-lasting treatments for CIPN available to humans. We investigated the ability of chronic CBG to alleviate mechanical hypersensitivity due to CIPN in mice by measuring responses to 7 and 14 days of daily CBG. We found that CBG treatment (i.p.) for 7 and 14 consecutive days significantly reduced mechanical hypersensitivity in male and female mice with CIPN and reduced pain sensitivity up to 60-70% of baseline levels (p < 0.001 for all), 24 h after the last injection. Additionally, we found that daily treatment with CBG did not evoke tolerance and did not incur significant weight change or adverse events. The efficacy of CBG was independent of the estrous cycle phase. Therefore, chronic CBG administration can provide at least 24 h of antinociceptive effect in mice. These findings support the study of CBG as a long-lasting neuropathic pain therapy, which acts without tolerance in both males and females.”

Medical Cannabis Alleviates Chronic Neuropathic Pain Effectively and Sustainably without Severe Adverse Effect: A Retrospective Study on 99 Cases

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“Introduction: Medical cannabis may provide a treatment option for chronic neuropathic pain. However, empirical disease-specific data are scarce.

Methods: This is a retrospective observational study including 99 patients with chronic neuropathic pain. These patients received medical cannabis by means of inhaling dried flowers with tetrahydrocannabinol content of <12-22% at a maximal daily dose of 0.15-1 g. Up to six follow-ups were carried out at intervals of 4-6 weeks. Pain severity, sleep disturbance, general improvement, side effects, and therapy tolerance at the follow-up consultations were assessed in interviews and compared with the baseline data using non-parametric Wilcoxon signed-rank test.

Results: Within 6 weeks on the therapy, median of the pain scores decreased significantly from 7.5 to 4.0 (p < 0.001). The proportion of patients with severe pain (score >6) decreased from 96% to 16% (p < 0.001). Sleep disturbance was significantly improved with the median of the scores decreased from 8.0 to 2.0 (p < 0.001). These improvements were sustained over a period of up to 6 months. There were no severe adverse events reported. Mild side effects reported were dryness in mucous tissue (5.4%), fatigue (4.8%), and increased appetite (2.7%). Therapy tolerance was reported in 91% of the interviews.

Conclusion: Medical cannabis is safe and highly effective for treating neuropathic pain and concomitant sleep disturbance.”

Applications of Cannabinoids in Neuropathic Pain: An Updated Review

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“Neuropathic pain is experienced due to injury to the nerves, underlying disease conditions or toxicity induced by chemotherapeutics. Multiple factors can contribute to neuropathic pain such as central nervous system (CNS)-related autoimmune and metabolic disorders, nerve injury, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Hence, development of pharmacological interventions to reduce the drawbacks of existing chemotherapeutics and counter neuropathic pain is an urgent unmet clinical need.

Cannabinoid treatment has been reported to be beneficial for several disease conditions including neuropathic pain.

Cannabinoids act by inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters from presynaptic nerve endings, modulating the excitation of postsynaptic neurons, activating descending inhibitory pain pathways, reducing neural inflammation and oxidative stress and also correcting autophagy defects. This review provides insights on the various preclinical and clinical therapeutic applications of cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN) in various diseases and the ongoing clinical trials for the treatment of chronic and acute pain with cannabinoids.

Pharmacological and genetic experimental strategies have well demonstrated the potential neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids and also elaborated their mechanism of action for the therapy of neuropathic pain.”,7ec6441519bff684,786cb61f3f1ec955.html

Cannabis Versus Opioids for Pain

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“In the human body, pain is an inherent alarm system that activates when there is actual or potential damage, directing an individual’s attention toward the issue. Pain is a frequently cited reason for seeking healthcare or medical assistance. Pain encompasses various elements, including nociception, the perception of pain, suffering, and pain behaviors. Although pain is a fundamental mechanism, it can become burdensome when it persists for an extended period, leading to suffering and pain-related behaviors. Chronic and unrelenting pain can cause psychological, physical, and emotional distress, adding further strain to individuals.

The search for an ideal pain relief medication has been an ongoing endeavor since ancient times, as certain types of pain still lack definitive treatment options. Several strategies have been developed to address intractable pain that does not respond to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), with opioids being the mainstay in many pain management protocols. In recent years, there has been growing and promising evidence suggesting the potential effectiveness of cannabinoids in the management of chronic pain.”

Cannabis use to manage opioid cravings among people who use unregulated opioids during a drug toxicity crisis

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“Background: Accumulating evidence has indicated that cannabis substitution is often used as a harm reduction strategy among people who use unregulated opioids (PWUO) and people living with chronic pain. We sought to investigate the association between cannabis use to manage opioid cravings and self-reported changes in opioid use among structurally marginalized PWUO.

Methods: The data were collected from a cross-sectional questionnaire administered to PWUO in Vancouver, Canada. Binary logistic regression was used to analyze the association between cannabis use to manage opioid cravings and self-reported changes in unregulated opioid use.

Results: A total of 205 people who use cannabis and opioids were enrolled in the present study from December 2019 to November 2021. Cannabis use to manage opioid cravings was reported by 118 (57.6%) participants. In the multivariable analysis, cannabis use to manage opioid cravings (adjusted Odds Ratio [aOR] = 2.13, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.07, 4.27) was significantly associated with self-reported reductions in opioid use. In the sub-analyses of pain, cannabis use to manage opioid cravings was only associated with self-assessed reductions in opioid use among people living with moderate to severe pain (aOR = 4.44, 95% CI: 1.52, 12.97). In the sub-analyses of males and females, cannabis use to manage opioid cravings was only associated with self-assessed reductions in opioid use among females (aOR = 8.19, 95% CI: 1.20, 55.81).

Conclusions: These findings indicate that cannabis use to manage opioid cravings is a prevalent motivation for cannabis use among PWUO and is associated with self-assessed reductions in opioid use during periods of cannabis use. Increasing the accessibility of cannabis products for therapeutic use may be a useful supplementary strategy to mitigate exposure to unregulated opioids and associated harm during the ongoing drug toxicity crisis.”

Offering an Alternative to Persons with Chronic Pain: How Access to Cannabis May Provide an Off-Ramp from Undesired Prescription Opioid Use

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“Background: Chronic pain (CP) is experienced by as many as 50 million Americans and can negatively impact physical and mental health. Prescribing opioids is the most common approach to address moderate to severe CP though these potent analgesics are associated with a significant number of side effects. One alternative some Americans are turning to for CP management is cannabis. In addition to serving as an alternative, many individuals with CP use cannabis in addition to using prescription opioids. This study examined individuals with CP who enrolled in the state of Illinois’ opioid diversion program, the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (OAPP), which offers individuals aged 21 and older a separate pathway to access medical cannabis if they have or could receive a prescription for opioids as certified by a licensed physician.

Methods: Cross-sectional survey data were collected from 450 participants. We described participants and compared those who use only cannabis with those who use cannabis and opioids.

Results: While 16% of the respondents were cannabis-only users, 84% of the respondents were co-users of opioids and cannabis. Both groups considered opioid use risky (100% cannabis-only, 89% co-users,). The majority (73%) of respondents sought to completely stop or never start using opioids for CP. Cannabis-only users reported lower levels of pain compared to co-users. Co-users (85%) were more likely to have their routine provider as a cannabis certifying physician than cannabis-only users (69%).

Conclusion: With increasing clinical evidence, legalization and acceptance, researchers should continue to examine how cannabis may be a viable alternative to reduce the risk of prescription opioid side effects, misuse, or dependence. Our findings also inform health care providers and state policymakers who increasingly are being asked to consider how cannabis may reduce the potential for harmful outcomes among persons with CP who use prescription opioids.”

Perceived Effectiveness of Medical Cannabis Among Adults with Chronic Pain: Findings from Interview Data in a Three-Month Pilot Study

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“Objectives: Patient-reported outcomes are critical to evaluate the effectiveness of medical cannabis as an alternative treatment for chronic pain. This study examined the perceived effectiveness of medical cannabis for chronic pain management among middle-aged and older adults newly initiating medical cannabis.

Methods: Interview data from participants in a three-month pilot study were analyzed to assess the perceived effectiveness of medical cannabis on chronic pain and related outcomes. The interview was conducted after approximately one month of usage and responses were analyzed using the RADaR (Rigorous and Accelerated Data Reduction) technique.

Results: 51 adults initiating medical cannabis for chronic pain were interviewed (24 women, 27 men, mean age 54.4, SD = 12.0), with the majority (n=41) identifying as Non-Hispanic White followed by Non-Hispanic Black (n=7), Multi-racial (2), Hispanic White (1). Most study participants (62.7%) reported MC being overall effective. Common benefits included reduced pain intensity, anxiety, and dependency on pain and psychiatric medications. Improvements in physical functioning, sleep quality, and mood were reported. Common challenges included difficulty finding a suitable product or dose, experiencing side effects such as ‘undesired high’, ‘stomach issues’, and a limited ‘threshold of pain’ treatable by the product.

Discussion: Findings suggest most participants perceived medical cannabis to be overall effective for chronic pain management. Participants reported improved physical and mental functioning and reduced use of pain and psychiatric medications. Future research systematically assessing side effects, dosage and mode of consumption is needed to further evaluate the outcomes among adults initiating medical cannabis.”

Anti-allodynic and medullary modulatory effects of a single dose of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in neuropathic rats tolerant to morphine

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“Neuropathic pain (NP) is often treated with opioids, the prolonged use of which causes tolerance to their analgesic effect and can potentially cause death by overdose. The phytocannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may be an effective alternative analgesic to treat NP in morphine-tolerant subjects. Male Wistar rats developed NP after spared nerve injury, and were then treated with increasing doses of THC (1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, and 5 mg/kg, intraperitoneally) which reduced mechanical allodynia at the dose of 2.5 and 5 mg/kg. Another group of NP rats were treated with morphine (5 mg/kg, twice daily for 7 days, subcutaneously), until tolerance developed, and on day 8 received a single dose of THC (2.5 mg/kg), which significantly reduced mechanical allodynia. To evaluate the modulation of THC in the descending pain pathway, in vivo electrophysiological recordings of pronociceptive ON cells and antinociceptive OFF cells in the rostroventral medulla (RVM) were recorded after intra-PAG microinjection of THC (10 μg/μl). NP rats with morphine tolerance, compared to the control one, showed a tonic reduction of the spontaneous firing rate of ON cells by 44%, but the THC was able to further decrease it (a hallmark of many analgesic drugs acting at supraspinal level). On the other hand, the firing rate, of the antinociceptive OFF cells was increased after morphine tolerance by 133%, but the THC failed to further activate it. Altogether, these findings indicate that a single dose of THC produces antiallodynic effect in individuals with NP who are tolerant to morphine, acting mostly on the ON cells of the descending pain pathways, but not on OFF cells.”