In a new study, researchers found strong evidence that cannabis can significantly alleviate pain.
They found the average user experiencing a three-point drop in pain suffering on a 0-10 point scale immediately following cannabis consumption.
The research was conducted by a team from The University of New Mexico (UNM).
Chronic pain afflicts more than 20 percent of adults and is the most financially burdensome health condition that the U.S faces; exceeding, for example, the combined costs of treating heart disease and cancer.
With a mounting opioid epidemic at full force and relatively few alternative pain medications available to the general public, the current study found conclusive support that cannabis is very effective at reducing pain caused by different types of health conditions, with relatively minimal negative side effects.
In the study, the team used the largest database of real-time recordings of the effects of common and commercially available cannabis products in the U.S.
They relied on information collected with Releaf App, a mobile software program developed by co-authors Franco Brockelman, Keenan Keeling and Branden Hall.
The app enables cannabis users to monitor the real-time effects of the breadth of available cannabis-based products, which are always variable, of course, given the complexity of the Cannabis plant from which these products are obtained.
Since its release in 2016, the commercially developed Releaf App has been the only publicly available, incentive-free app for educating patients on how different types of products (e.g., flower or concentrate), combustion methods, cannabis subspecies (Indica, Sativa, and hybrid), and major cannabinoid contents (THC and CBD) affect their symptom severity levels.
It provides the user with invaluable feedback on their health status, medication choices, and the clinical outcomes of those choices as measured by symptom relief and side effects.
The researchers found the greatest analgesic responses were reported by people that used whole dried cannabis flower, or “buds,” and particularly cannabis with relatively high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC.
The more recently popularized cannabinoid, cannabidiol or CBD, in contrast, showed little association with the momentary changes in pain intensity.
The team says 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.
The results confirm that cannabis use is a relatively safe and effective medication for alleviating pain, and that is the most important message to learn from the results.
It can only benefit the public for people to be able to responsibly weigh the true risks and benefits of their pain medication choices.
The authors do caution that cannabis use does carry the risks of addiction and short-term impairments in cognitive and behavioral functioning, and may not be effective for everyone.
However, there are multiple mechanisms by which cannabis alleviates pain suffering.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, cannabis activates receptors that are colocalized with opioid receptors in the brain.
Cannabis with high THC also causes mood elevation and adjusts attentional demands, likely distracting patients from the aversive sensations that people refer to as pain.
The lead author of the study is Jacob Miguel Vigil.
The study is published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
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