A new study explores the effects of cannabinoids on neuropathic pain and medication use
Neuropathic pain is a common and debilitating complication of spinal cord injury (SCI). It is caused by damage to the nerves that transmit pain signals from the body to the brain. Neuropathic pain can be described as burning, stabbing, tingling, or numbness, and it can interfere with daily activities and quality of life.
Current treatments for neuropathic pain are limited and often have significant side effects. Many people with SCI rely on opioids, gabapentinoids, or over-the-counter painkillers to manage their pain, but these medications can also cause addiction, tolerance, withdrawal, nausea, drowsiness, and other problems.
A recent study by researchers from the University of Miami explored how people with SCI view their neuropathic pain when using cannabis or cannabinoids as a treatment option. The study was published in December 2023 in the journal Frontiers in Pain Research.
What is cannabis or cannabinoids?
Cannabis is a plant that contains various compounds called cannabinoids. The most well-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis that causes euphoria, relaxation, and altered perception. CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis that has anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and neuroprotective properties.
Cannabinoids can be consumed in different ways, such as smoking, vaping, eating edibles, applying topicals, or taking capsules or oils. The effects of cannabinoids vary depending on the dose, route of administration, individual factors, and strain characteristics.
How did the study investigate cannabis use for neuropathic pain?
The study was a survey-based research that aimed to discover how people with SCI perceived their neuropathic pain when using cannabis or cannabinoids as a treatment option. The study also wanted to find out if they were substituting their current pain medications with cannabis.
The researchers recruited 342 people who had SCI due to various causes. They selected 227 participants who agreed to participate in an online survey about their characteristics of injuries, pain intensity and duration over the past week (average 6 hours), current pain medications (average 2 types), frequency of cannabis use (average once a week), type of cannabis used (average CBD isolate), consumption methods (average vaping), strains used (average Charlotte’s Web), negative side effects experienced (average none).
The participants were asked about their self-reported effects of cannabis on their neuropathic pain intensity and symptoms. They were also asked about their willingness to substitute their current pain medications with cannabis.
What were the main findings of the study?
The main findings of the study were:
- The average neuropathic pain intensity over the past week was rated as “high moderate to severe”.
- The majority of participants who reported cannabis use also reported benefits from its use.
- 87.9% noted that cannabis reduced their neuropathic pain intensity by more than 30%, and
- 92.3% reported that cannabis helped them to better deal with their neuropathic pain symptoms.
- Most participants (83.3%) also reported substituting their current pain medications with cannabis.
- The most substituted medication categories were opioids (47%), gabapentinoids (42.8%), and over-the-counter pain medications (42.2%).
The authors stated that this study was among the first of its kind and confirmed the need for larger studies in this area.
What are the implications of the study?
The implications of this study are:
- It suggests that cannabis or cannabinoids may be effective in reducing neuropathic pain among people with SCI.
- It may help to improve quality of life for patients by providing an alternative or complementary treatment option.
- It may help to limit the need for certain medications that have adverse effects or risks.
- It may help to inform policy changes regarding prescription access to medicinal cannabis for patients with SCI.
- More research is needed to confirm these findings and determine optimal doses,
- consumption methods,
- long-term outcomes
- legal status
- stigma of using cannabis for treating neuropathic pain from SCI.
Neuropathic pain is a common and debilitating complication of spinal cord injury that affects many aspects of daily life. Current treatments are limited and often have significant side effects. A recent study explored how people with SCI view their neuropathic pain when using cannabis or cannabinoids as a treatment option. The study found that many people reported benefits from using cannabis on their neuropathic pain intensity and symptoms. The study also found that many people were willing to substitute their current medications with cannabis. These findings suggest that cannabis or cannabinoids may be effective in reducing neuropathic