Consensus-Based Recommendations for Titrating Cannabinoids and Tapering Opioids for Chronic Pain Control

International Journal of Clinical Practice“Opioid misuse and overuse has contributed to a widespread overdose crisis and many patients and physicians are considering medical cannabis to support opioid tapering and chronic pain control. Using a five-step modified Delphi process, we aimed to develop consensus-based recommendations on: 1) when and how to safely initiate and titrate cannabinoids in the presence of opioids, 2) when and how to safely taper opioids in the presence of cannabinoids, and 3) how to monitor patients and evaluate outcomes when treating with opioids and cannabinoids.

Results: In patients with chronic pain taking opioids not reaching treatment goals, there was consensus that cannabinoids may be considered for patients experiencing or displaying opioid-related complications, despite psychological or physical interventions. There was consensus observed to initiate with a cannabidiol (CBD)-predominant oral extract in the daytime and consider adding tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When adding THC, start with 0.5-3 mg, and increase by 1-2 mg once or twice weekly up to 30-40 mg/day. Initiate opioid tapering when the patient reports a minor/major improvement in function, seeks less as-needed medication to control pain, and/or the cannabis dose has been optimized. The opioid tapering schedule may be 5%-10% of the morphine equivalent dose (MED) every 1 to 4 weeks. Clinical success could be defined by an improvement in function/quality of life, a ≥ 30% reduction in pain intensity, a ≥ 25% reduction in opioid dose, a reduction in opioid dose to < 90 mg MED, and/or reduction in opioid-related adverse events.

Conclusions: This five-stage modified Delphi process led to the development of consensus-based recommendations surrounding the safe introduction and titration of cannabinoids in concert with tapering opioids.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33249713/

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijcp.13871

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Prescribed medical cannabis in women with gynecologic malignancies: A single-institution survey-based study

Gynecologic Oncology Reports “Research within a gynecologic oncology population has lagged behind the uptake in use of medical cannabis for symptom control. This study seeks to evaluate patient experience with prescribed medical cannabis obtained through licensed dispensaries in women with gynecologic malignancies.

A 43-item survey exploring patient experience with medical cannabis was administered to women with gynecologic malignancies who used medical cannabis prescribed by a gynecologic oncologist. Thirty-six eligible patients were approached for consent, and 31 patients returned completed surveys (86%). Ninety-three percent had advanced or recurrent disease; 74% were receiving chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

Eighty-three percent reported medical cannabis provided relief from cancer or treatment-related symptoms including decreased appetite (41%), insomnia (41%), neuropathy (41%), anxiety (35%), nausea (29%), joint pain (29%), bone pain (29%), abdominal pain (25%), and depression (19%). Eighty percent of patients reported medical cannabis worked the same or better than other traditional medications for management of their cancer or treatment-related symptoms, and 83% reported medical cannabis had an equivalent or better side effect profile.

Of the subset of patients using medical cannabis for pain, 63% reported a reduction in opioid use. Patients perceive that medical cannabis was useful for relief of cancer and treatment-related symptoms, suggesting medical cannabis may be a reasonable alternative or adjunct therapy. Medical cannabis was well tolerated and may have the potential to improve neuropathic pain and decrease opioid use.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33204797/

“Patients with gynecologic malignancies perceive medical cannabis relieves multiple cancer-related symptoms. Medical cannabis is well-tolerated and perceived to have a favorable side effect profile. Patients using medical cannabis for pain control report an associated reduction in opioid use.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352578920301338?via%3Dihub

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Cannabis in Parkinson’s Disease: The Patients’ View

IOS Press | Impacting the World of ScienceLittle is known about the patients’ view on treatment with medical cannabis (MC) for Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Objective: To assess the PD community’s perception of MC and patients’ experience with MC.

Results: Overall, 1.348 questionnaires (1.123 nationwide, 225 local) were analysed. 51% of participants were aware of the legality of MC application, 28% of various routes of administration (ROA) and 9% of the difference between delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). PD-related cannabis use was reported by 8.4% of patients and associated with younger age, living in large cities and better knowledge about the legal and clinical aspects of MC. Reduction of pain and muscle cramps was reported by more than 40% of cannabis users. Stiffness/akinesia, freezing, tremor, depression, anxiety and restless legs syndrome subjectively improved for more than 20% and overall tolerability was good. Improvement of symptoms was reported by 54% of users applying oral CBD and 68% inhaling THC-containing cannabis. Compared to CBD intake, inhalation of THC was more frequently reported to reduce akinesia and stiffness (50.0% vs. 35.4%; p < 0.05). Interest in using MC was reported by 65% of non-users.

Conclusion: MC is considered as a therapeutic option by many PD patients. Nevertheless, efficacy and different ROA should further be investigated.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33216043/

https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-parkinsons-disease/jpd202260

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In search of preventative strategies: novel high-CBD cannabis sativa extracts modulate ACE2 expression in COVID-19 gateway tissues

 Archive of "Aging (Albany NY)".“With the current COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), there is an urgent need for new therapies and prevention strategies that can help curtail disease spread and reduce mortality.

The inhibition of viral entry and thus spread is a plausible therapeutic avenue. SARS-CoV-2 uses receptor-mediated entry into a human host via the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is expressed in lung tissue as well as the oral and nasal mucosa, kidney, testes and gastrointestinal tract. The modulation of ACE2 levels in these gateway tissues may be an effective strategy for decreasing disease susceptibility.

Cannabis sativa, especially those high in the anti-inflammatory cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), has been found to alter gene expression and inflammation and harbour anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. However, its effects on ACE2 expression remain unknown.

Working under a Health Canada research license, we developed over 800 new C. sativa cultivars and hypothesized that high-CBD C. sativa extracts may be used to down-regulate ACE2 expression in target COVID-19 tissues. Using artificial 3D human models of oral, airway and intestinal tissues, we identified 13 high-CBD C. sativa extracts that decrease ACE2 protein levels. Some C. sativa extracts down-regulate serine protease TMPRSS2, another critical protein required for SARS-CoV-2 entry into host cells.

While our most effective extracts require further large-scale validation, our study is important for future analyses of the effects of medical cannabis on COVID-19. The extracts of our most successful novel high-CBD C. sativa lines, pending further investigation, may become a useful and safe addition to the prevention/treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33221759/

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Cannabidiol (CBD) as a Promising Anti-Cancer Drug

cancers-logo“Recently, cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and Δ9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have been the subject of intensive research and heavy scrutiny. Cannabinoids encompass a wide array of organic molecules, including those that are physiologically produced in humans, synthesized in laboratories, and extracted primarily from the Cannabis sativa plant. These organic molecules share similarities in their chemical structures as well as in their protein binding profiles. However, pronounced differences do exist in their mechanisms of action and clinical applications, which will be briefly compared and contrasted in this review. The mechanism of action of CBD and its potential applications in cancer therapy will be the major focus of this review article.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33143283/

“The use of cannabinoids containing plant extracts as herbal medicine can be traced back to as early as 500 BC. In recent years, the medical and health-related applications of one of the non-psychotic cannabinoids, cannabidiol or CBD, has garnered tremendous attention. In this review, we will discuss the most recent findings that strongly support the further development of CBD as a promising anti-cancer drug.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6694/12/11/3203

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Calling for Openness to the Study of Cannabis Use in Chronic Pelvic Pain

JOGC (@JOGC_Social) | Twitter“Chronic pelvic pain affects women across all demographics. Its management is complex and requires a multimodal approach.

Cannabis has been legal for medical purposes for many years; however, its pharmacokinetics are just beginning to be understood, as are its analgesic effects and other benefits, such as improved sleep quality and reduced nausea and vomiting.

Given the recent Canada-wide legalization of cannabis for non-medical use, patients may be more willing to disclose cannabis use and use it for pain management. Given the complexity of chronic pain management, physicians must be open to cannabis as an analgesic option.

Cannabis use may decrease the need for opioids, a phenomenon that could reduce opioid dependency. Now is the ideal time to study patients’ use of and perspectives on cannabis for pain relief in order to establish its effectiveness and safety.

Cannabis shows potential to be a key player in a multimodal approach to chronic pelvic pain.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33132057/

https://www.jogc.com/article/S1701-2163(20)30791-X/fulltext

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Involvement of dopamine receptor in the actions of non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids

Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications “These data support the notion that CBD and CBDV act as functional partial agonists on dopamine D2-like receptors in vivo.

The discovery that dopamine receptor is involved in the actions of phytocannabinoids moves a significant step toward our understanding of the mechanisms for medical uses of cannabis in the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33097185/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006291X20319306?via%3Dihub

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Reductions in alcohol use following medical cannabis initiation: results from a large cross-sectional survey of medical cannabis patients in Canada

 International Journal of Drug Policy“Evidence details how cannabis can influence the use of other psychoactive substances, including prescription medications, alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, but very little research has examined the factors associated with these changes in substance use patterns. This paper explores the self-reported use of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol among a Canadian medical cannabis patient population.

Results: Overall, 419 (44%) participants reported decreases in alcohol usage frequency over 30 days, 323 (34%) decreased the number of standard drinks they had per week, and 76 (8%) reported no alcohol use at all in the 30 days prior to the survey. Being below 55 years of age and reporting higher rates of alcohol use in the pre-period were both associated with greater odds of reducing alcohol use, and an intention to use medical cannabis to reduce alcohol consumption was associated with significantly greater odds of both reducing and ceasing alcohol use altogether.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that medical cannabis initiation may be associated with self-reported reductions and cessation of alcohol use among medical cannabis patients. Since alcohol is the most prevalent recreational substance in North America, and its use results in significant rates of criminality, morbidity and mortality, these findings may result in improved health outcomes for medical cannabis patients, as well as overall improvements in public health and safety.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33068830/

“Following medical cannabis initiation, 44% of participants reported decreases in alcohol use frequency over 30 days, and 34% decreased the number of standard drinks they had per week. Younger age (<55 years old) and higher rates of alcohol use prior to medical cannabis initiation were associated with greater odds of reducing alcohol. Specific intention to use medical cannabis to reduce alcohol consumption resulted in greater odds of reducing and/or ceasing use altogether.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0955395920303017?via%3Dihub

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Medical Marijuana Effects in Movement Disorders, Focus on Huntington Disease; A Literature Review

“We aimed to comprehensively evaluate the effects of medical marijuana on symptoms that are relevant to movement disorders with a focus on Huntington disease (HD).

A systematic review by literature search through PubMed and EBSCO electronic databases was conducted for relevant studies reported after 2002 on the effects of medical marijuana or cannabis use on tremor, spasm, spasticity, chorea, sleep quality and HD-specific rating scales. Study selection, quality assessment and data extraction was performed by three reviewers. Outcome measures were changes in psychomotor, and sleep related symptoms. The methodological quality of the included studies was evaluated.

Results: A total of 22 studies were reviewed. There was strong evidence for significant improvement in the neurologic symptoms of spasms, tremors, spasticity, chorea, and quality of sleep following treatment with medical marijuana. Analysis of specific motor symptoms revealed significant improvement after treatment in tremors and rigidity. Furthermore, all pretreatment and post-treatment measures indicated a significant increase in average number of hours slept.

Conclusion: Larger scale studies are warranted to test the benefits of medical marijuana in HD patients. In the meanwhile, clinicians may consider prescribing medical marijuana as part of their strategy for better symptomatic treatment of patients with HD.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33064979/

https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/jpps/index.php/JPPS/article/view/30967

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Medical Cannabis Treatment for Chronic Pain: Outcomes and Prediction of Response

Although studied in a few randomized controlled trials (RCTs), the efficacy of medical cannabis (MC) for chronic pain remains controversial. Using an alternative approach, this multicenter, questionnaire-based prospective cohort was aimed to assess the long-term effects of MC on chronic pain of various etiologies and to identify predictors for MC treatment success.

Results: 1045 patients completed the baseline questionnaires and initiated MC treatment, and 551 completed the 12 month follow-up. At one year, average pain intensity declined from baseline by 20% [-1.97 points (95%CI= -2.13 to -1.81; p<0.001)]. All other parameters improved by 10-30% (p<0.001). A significant decrease of 42% [reduction of 27mg; (95%CI= -34.89 to -18.56, p<0.001)] from baseline in morphine equivalent daily dosage of opioids was also observed. Reported adverse effects were common but mostly non-serious. Presence of normal to long sleep duration, lower body mass index (BMI) and lower depression score predicted relatively higher treatment success, whereas presence of neuropathic pain predicted the opposite.

Conclusions: This prospective study provides further evidence for the effects of MC on chronic pain and related symptoms, demonstrating an overall mild to modest long-term improvement of the tested measures and identifying possible predictors for treatment success.

Significance: This “real world” paper shows that MC mildly to modestly attenuates chronic pain and related symptoms. MC treatment can also cause frequent, but mostly non-serious adverse effects, although central nervous system (CNS)-related AEs that can impair the ability to drive vehicles are not uncommon. This study is novel in identifying possible predictors for treatment success, including normal to long sleep duration, lower BMI and lower depression scores. In contrast to current beliefs the diagnosis of neuropathic pain predicts a less favorable outcome. These findings provide physicians with new data to support decision making on recommendations for MC treatment.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33065768/

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejp.1675

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