All posts tagged: Chronic Pain

Pre-clinical Evidence for Analgesic Effects of Cannabis Doesn’t Match Human Trial Results

Current evidence of cannabinoid-based analgesia obtained in preclinical and human experimental settings

In Summary:

Pre-clinical animal models of pain provide a wealth of data supporting the pain-relief capabilities of cannabis; however, reproducing this data in human clinical trials has proved difficult. Data from the animal pre-clinical trials point to cannabinoids reducing stress responses and pain-evoked stress, desensitizing pain receptors, and increased pain sensitivity in animals that lack cannabinoid receptors. However, human trials present conflicting results: several studies have shown dose-dependent relationships, and in the current review this was experienced by many participants, wherein lower and medium doses provided pain relief, but higher doses triggered increased sensitivity to pain. Controlled studies may show a lack of impressive pain relief effects, personal reports of pain relief associated with cannabis use are nearly universal in retrospective reports. This suggests that there may be an important effect on well-being or mood, rather merely sensory pain. Furthermore, the relieving effects of cannabis appear to impact men and women differently.

Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:

Additionally, much of pain relief is subjective, in both sensation, description, and inside the study environment. The description of pain varies from person to person, and researchers may be asking the wrong questions to the right people or the right questions to the wrong people. In fact, a growing perspective is that this mismatch may be more common and more pronounced than previously recognized. The makeup of pain is also quite complicated. For instance, a limb might hurt, but if there is swelling or tenderness nearby, those may amplify the discomfort. How can we take the full picture into account in the form of helpful data points? What of the emotional or psychological impacts of pain? Is it even possible that such things can be fully understood, let alone measured reliably? Assuming that emotional phenomenon or stress/suffering can be conveyed to research scientists, how can we ever hope to compare one person’s experience to another’s? For example, one would imagine that frustration associated with the pain experienced by a venerable world war veteran, who has previously endured tremendous and complex pains and associated psychological trauma may be quite different from someone who has never experienced a particular pain before.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDPre-clinical Evidence for Analgesic Effects of Cannabis Doesn’t Match Human Trial Results
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Many Chronic Pain-Related Cannabis Studies Lack “High-Quality” Evidence

Cannabis-based medicines for chronic neuropathic pain in adults (Review)

In Summary:

In a recent Cochrane meta-analysis of studies investigating the use of medical cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain management, the authors determined that no results were what they could consider “high quality.” All data which related to degrees of pain relief, adverse events, and “Patient Global Impression of Change” were largely of very low or low quality, with some outcomes being of moderate quality. The meta-analysis concluded that no existing evidence backs up the use of cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain; however, the quality of evidence examined highlights the need for more controlled studies.  

Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:

Depending on the system of organization one prefers, pain can be divided up into different subtypes. For one system, it’s three subtypes: neuropathic, nociceptive, and “other.” For another system, pain can be organized by timing (sharp, acute, chronic, breakthrough), location (bone, soft tissue, nerve, referred, phantom), or by the relative system (emotional, cancer, body.) This review discusses the subtype category of “neuropathic pain” as a means of grouping pain to study. The measures used to assess the pain are as subjective as the categories themselves. Clearly, compounding the two subjective divisions is unlikely to produce “high quality” data, but it is a misleading interpretation to take away that there is no good quality information to glean from the observations this review organizes, and also a misinterpretation to jump to an idea that cannabis is not helpful. Rather, given the statistical tools we currently use, and the subjective systems of understanding pain are not well-matched to translating the effects of cannabis on pain into this type of data.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDMany Chronic Pain-Related Cannabis Studies Lack “High-Quality” Evidence
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Could Inhaled Cannabis Be More Effective to Relieve Pain than Oral Cannabinoids?

Cannabis for Chronic Pain: Challenges and Considerations

In Summary:

Comparisons between the use of inhaled cannabis plant versus pharmaceutical-grade oral cannabinoids demonstrate an advantage of inhalation over oral delivery. Conditions for which inhalation has provided superior over oral consumption include:

HIV, diabetic neuropathy, post-herpetic neuralgia, complex regional pain syndrome, spinal cord injury, traumatic neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, and cervical disk disease.

An important note: patients consuming cannabinoids orally are more likely to withdraw from studies due to negative side effects and lack of efficacy. Also, edible cannabis may compete, amplify, or have effects delayed, when interacting with other ingested foods and drinks, A major advantage of inhalation is the opportunity for patients to titrate, or easily test varying dosages at home, with reasonably rapid feedback. On the other hand, dosage adjustments for oral food-borne cannabinoids are much more complex, and cannabis in the form of oral pharmaceutical-products may require a doctor visit and a new prescription.

Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:

In the clinic, there seems to be a great divide in the population, a group of patients who simply adore the edibles (often in low-dose candies, low-dose chocolate, or titrated tinctures), and a group who use inhalation, almost exclusively. There are also some who are discovering topicals (salves, patches, lotions). There is a growing number of patients who use each of these methods with intention, related to their timing of onset and their duration of action, but this requires education, practice, and a degree of sophistication in use that is relatively new to the industry.

As with most consumption, medicinal or not, it seems common for individuals to find a method that they enjoy and stick to it. Interestingly, in recent years, the US cannabis industry has evolved in a wild growth phase. As it has embraced a dynamic landscape, with increasing competition from all sides, including new stores and product offerings popping up all the time, there seems to be a growing openness, in consumers, to trying new products and exploring new offerings. Coincidentally, this openness to change and the unfamiliar happens to mirror one of the core neurobiological functions of cannabis in the brain, as seen across the neuropsychiatric and neuroimaging cannabis literature.

How exciting to imagine a future medicine that may help consumers to be more open to change?

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Benjamin Caplan, MDCould Inhaled Cannabis Be More Effective to Relieve Pain than Oral Cannabinoids?
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Student-Athletes are at an Increased Risk for Binge Drinking and Substance Use

Title: Psychological correlates and binge drinking behaviours among Canadian youth- a cross-sectional analysis of the mental health pilot data from the COMPASS study

A recent study has examined data from the COMPASS program and found that student-athletes in Canada were more likely to engage in binge-drinking and illicit substance use. Researchers focussed on the measure of flourishing, defined as an overall healthy mental state and emotional connectedness, and how flourishing related to concerning drinking and substance use behavior. Student-athletes were found to be the most at risk for binge-drinking, defined as consuming 5 or more drinks in a single session, and those more likely to binge-drink were also more likely to co-use illicit substances. This research provides evidence for the formation of targeted prevention programs.

Cannabis use is banned among athletes by most sports organizations. Cannabis appeals to athletes considering the many different consumption methods, allowing discreet consumption and personalization with variable potential opportunities for relief. Cannabinoids are generally naturally occurring substances unless clearly manufactured, and have been shown to be beneficial for post-workout recovery, muscle soreness, anxiety, sleep, and relaxation. All of those symptoms, including the emotionally driven ones, are common among student-athletes who often feel an immense amount of pressure to perform in competition. As in most other areas of modern culture, Cannabidiol (CBD) finds itself in a grey area for most sports organizations’ substance regulations given that it is not intoxicating and readily available with a notable safety profile. Even if cannabis is not federally legal, CBD is so widely available that many athletes are embracing it, in lieu of more dangerous, or potentially addictive, medications.

Tweet: A recent study has examined data from the #COMPASS program and found that #studentathletes in Canada were more likely to engage in #binge-drinking and illicit substance use. Read this and other linked studies:

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Benjamin Caplan, MDStudent-Athletes are at an Increased Risk for Binge Drinking and Substance Use
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Cannabis is a Safe and Effect for the Treatment of Fibromyalgia

Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in Fibromyalgia 

A recent study has concluded that cannabis is a safe and effective treatment for patients suffering from fibromyalgia symptoms.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and issues sleeping. Cannabis is well known for its ability to treat pain, especially in lieu of opioids as the side effects are minimal and the risk of addiction minimal. This study found that over 200 patients were greatly benefited by cannabis as it moderated their pain and improved their mood. Future studies should aim to directly compare cannabis-based treatment with the currently accepted methods of fibromyalgia treatment to validate efficacy. 

This study highlights how beneficial cannabis can be for those patients who are treatment-resistant for the general treatment of most disorders, especially when pain is involved. Cannabis has been proven to be much safer than opioids, and yet our lack of complete information, concerning the exact mechanisms of the endocannabinoid system and how different cannabinoids act on those mechanisms severely limits our ability to offer practical, novel therapies. Cannabis has previously been shown to be beneficial for treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy and depression, which holds promise when continuing to look for novel treatments for other disorders that have proven difficult to treat. 

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Benjamin Caplan, MDCannabis is a Safe and Effect for the Treatment of Fibromyalgia
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Video: Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment

A 2018 literature review summarizes the various ways patients can consume cannabis (orally, topically, etc.) and the pain reductions associated with each method. The review focuses on the treatment of multiple sclerosis, cancer, anorexia, arthritis, and other painful disorders.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDVideo: Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment
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80%: Cannabis extremely helpful for pain; 82%: helped reduce or stop over-the-counter medications; 88% able to stop taking opioid painkillers

“The study, published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, which looked at 1,000 people taking legalized marijuana in an American state found that among the 65% of people taking cannabis for pain, 80% found it was very or extremely helpful.”

“82% of these people being able to reduce, or stop taking over the counter pain medications, and 88% being able to stop taking opioid painkillers.”

“74% of the 1,000 interviewees bought it to help them sleep – 84% of whom said the marijuana had helped them, and over 83% said that they had since reduced or stopped taking over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids.”

“The study adds weight to the theory that widening access to medical cannabis could lower the use of prescription painkillers, allowing more people to manage and treat their pain without relying on opioid prescription drugs that have dangerous side effects.”

“This is backed up with other research that shows that states with medical cannabis laws have a 6.38% lower rate of opioid prescribing and that Colorado’s adult-use cannabis law is associated with a relative reduction in opioid overdose death rate from 1999 to 2010.”

“”Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen cause GI bleeding or kidney damage with chronic use. Paracetemol (Acetaminophen) toxicity is the second most common cause of liver transplantation worldwide, and is responsible for 56,000 ER visits, 2600 hospitalizations, and 500 deaths per year in the U.S.”

Link to news brief: https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-07/tfg-cmb062819.php

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Benjamin Caplan, MD80%: Cannabis extremely helpful for pain; 82%: helped reduce or stop over-the-counter medications; 88% able to stop taking opioid painkillers
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The Cannabinoid System is a Promising Source of Targets for Treating Pain

A Budding Source of Targets for Treating Inflammatory and Neuropathic Pain ECS

The cannabinoid system provides momentum to develop cannabinoid-based medications to treat inflammatory and neuropathic pain as researchers continue to find promising therapeutic targets. These new targets may lead to the formation of novel pain-relief medications that may serve well to alleviate pain for those suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia. Cannabis-based pain medicine is also being researched for opioid-sparing effects and effectiveness in reducing the necessary dose of opioids.

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Benjamin Caplan, MDThe Cannabinoid System is a Promising Source of Targets for Treating Pain
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Cannabinoids + opioid pain relief: subjective effects in healthy humans

Human study finds that, when taken with opioids, dronabinol (THC) may increase impairment and decrease, or not affect, pain relief. Researchers conclude that THC might NOT protect the body from the adverse effects of opioids. However, the study examined only 10 participants, and such a small sample size should give pause to the validity and applicability of the findings. 

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Benjamin Caplan, MDCannabinoids + opioid pain relief: subjective effects in healthy humans
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Video: Cannabis and Multiple Sclerosis

A 2019 literature review summarizes the findings on cannabis use for patients with multiple sclerosis. Cannabis has been shown to aid a number of symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis, including chronic pain, spasticity, and problems with sleep. To learn more, check out our video adaptation below:

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Benjamin Caplan, MDVideo: Cannabis and Multiple Sclerosis
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