A Systematic Review of Cannabis-Based Medications for Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Joshua (Shuki) Aviram PhD, R.N
Prof. Meiri’s Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Cannabinoid Research
Post doc Fellow Faculty of Biology
Technion Institute of Technology – Haifa, Israel

Dr. Aviram

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?
I am a RN by profession, and treating patients with opioids as the main solution to alleviate their pain, with many adverse effects, such as severe constipation made me looking for another solution.

In the course of my PhD thesis, from which I recently published results in the European Journal of Pain (link:https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344739061_Medical_Cannabis_Treatment_for_Chronic_Pain_Outcomes_and_Prediction_of_Response),

I reviewed the literature and I noticed that there were few reviews that used the same clinical trials as their basis, reaching somewhat different conclusions. Therefore, I decided to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of all available randomized controlled trials (RCTs) at that time.

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Can CBD and Cannabis Provide Pain Relief in Fibromyalgia?

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Amnon A. Berger, MD, PhD
MD/PhD Program 2006-2017
The Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School
Jerusalem, Israel
Resident Physician (CA-1/PGY-2) and Loring Scholar
Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA

Dr. Berger

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Fibromyalgia is a common disorder of chronic widespread pain. It has been estimated to affect 2-4% of the general population, though that number is likely an underestimate of the actual incidence. Outside of chronic pain, it also contributes to morbidity and disability because it affects sleep, causes cognitive impairment and psychiatric perturbations. Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat.

Because the underlying causes – the etiology and pathophysiology at the base of this condition – are still largely unknown, it is harder to tailor specific treatments. There is evidence to support several modes of treatment, but truly high-level evidence exists only for physical exercise. Effective treatment depends on long term commitment and a multimodal approach by a multidisciplinary team.

Recently, with the rise of use in cannabis and CBD, both for medical and recreational use, evidence has emerged to support its use in fibromyalgia. While most of the evidence is not clear cut and not high enough evidence to support cannabis use, the evidence is overall positive and cannabis derivatives may be an effective choice as part of a multimodal treatment plan.

Study Evaluates Inhaled Cannabis for Pain Relief from Headache and Migraine

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Carrie Cuttler, Ph.D.
Assistant ProfessorWashington State University
Department of Psychology
Pullman, WA, 99164-4820

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Many people report using cannabis for headache and migraine and claim that it is effective in reducing their symptoms. However, to date there has only been one clinical trial examining the effectiveness of a cannabinoid drug called Nabilone (synthetic THC that is orally administered) on headache. The results of that trial indicated that Nabilone was more effective than ibuprofen in reducing pain and increasing quality of life. There have also been a couple of preclinical (animal) studies suggesting that cannabinoids like THC may be beneficial in the treatment of migraine. But there are surprisingly few studies examining the effectiveness of cannabis, particularly whole plant cannabis rather than synthetic cannabinoids on headache and migraine.

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Study Evaluates Effects of Inhaled Cannabis for Pain Relief in Adults With Sickle Cell Disease

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Donald I. Abrams, MD
Division of Hematology-Oncology
Department of Medicine,
Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital
University of California, San Francisco

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: A number of years ago, Kalpna Gupta, PhD, an investigator then at the University of Minnesota, came and told me about her mice with Hemoglobin SS who experienced pain that responded to laboratory cannabinoids. She was going to apply for a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to continue her studies and sought us out because of our prior clinical trials with cannabis and pain. Dr. Gupta wanted to include a pilot proof of principle human study in her application and asked if we could design one. As cannabidiol (CBD) was just becoming known at that time, we suggested to do a study in patients with sickle cell disease and pain looking at a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-dominant strain of inhaled cannabis, a CBD-dominant strain, a balanced 1:1 strain and placebo. She said that we would only have funds to do a two-arm study, one of which needed to be placebo. As we had already shown that there was a trend for vaporized cannabis that was predominantly THC to add to the analgesic effect of sustained-release opioids in patients with chronic pain, we chose to investigate a 4.4% THC:4.9% CBD product obtained from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

We designed a crossover trial so that each participant would spend two 5-day inpatient stays separated by at least a month in our Clinical Research Center at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. During one stay they would add vaporized cannabis to their stable ongoing analgesic regimen and during the other stay they would inhale placebo cannabis three times a day. We use the Volcano vaporizer device that heats the plant material and not an oil as has become popular in the recent “vaping” craze. Our target was to enroll 35 patients with sickle cell disease and chronic ongoing pain on an opioid-containing regimen. Our primary endpoint was change in pain as measured by way of a visual analog scale and the Brief Pain Inventory as well as safety.

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Which Older Adults Use Cannabis for Chronic Pain Relief?

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Julie Bobitt, PhD

Director, Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Champaign, IL. 61820

Dr. Julie Bobitt
Dr. Julie Bobitt

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Our previous research found that older adults, who we interviewed, used cannabis primarily for pain related reasons and that they were reporting using cannabis to reduce or altogether stop their use of opioids.  We wanted to further study this and we wanted to see if there were any differences between self-reported pain in non-cannabis users vs. cannabis users and then if there were differences between groups who used cannabis alone versus those who used opioids alone, versus cannabis in combination with opioids. 

No Current Credible Evidence Cannabis Use is Helpful in Opioid Addiction

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Dr. Zena Samaan , MBChB, MSc, DMMD, MRCPsych (UK), PhD
Associate Professor
Program Director
Clinician Investigator Program
Faculty of Health Sciences
Department of Psychiatry
   Dr. Zena Samaan , MBChB, MSc, DMMD, MRCPsych  (UK), PhD

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: The study background: the interest in cannabis use as a replacement for opioid use was sparked by reports suggesting that cannabis is a safer alternative and the public perception of cannabis as the answer for many health problems is growingly fueling the debate on the potential use of cannabis to help in the opioid crisis. Reports from USA for example in 2014 using administrative data suggested that in States were there is medical cannabis law, the rate of death attributed to opioids was lower, generating wide media attention. Since then however an updated study using the same data published in 2019 showed that when the data were re-analyzed and the time frame was extended, the opposite was seen, in that states with cannabis law had higher opioid related mortality.

Our study came form the observations that patients with opioid use disorder are commonly using cannabis (~50% of patients used cannabis while on treatment for opioid addiction) and given the recent public interest, our goal was to provide evidence informed conclusions on the potential effects of cannabis on opioid use in patients with opioid addiction.

Short and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis For Headache and Migraine Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Carrie Cuttler, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Washington State University
Department of Psychology
Pullman, WA, 99164-4820

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Use of cannabis for headache and migraine is relatively common yet there have been few studies examining the effectiveness of medical cannabis for these purposes.

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: We analyzed data from nearly 20,000 cannabis use sessions tracked using the medical cannabis app Strainprint. The results show that headache and migraine severity ratings were reduced by nearly 50% from before to immediately after cannabis use. The results further revealed that men report larger reductions in headache severity following cannabis use than do women and that use of cannabis concentrates was associated with larger reductions in headache severity ratings than use of more traditional cannabis flower.

We also demonstrate that dose of cannabis used to manage these conditions increases across time and that efficacy of cannabis in reducing headache decreases across time. This indicates that there is some evidence of tolerance to the acute effects of cannabis on ameliorating headache across time. More encouragingly we found that baseline ratings of headache and migraine remained stable across time/cannabis use sessions which indicates that cannabis is not associated with the medication overuse headaches (i.e., increases in baseline headache and migraine severity across time as a function of the use of medications to treat these conditions) that more conventional treatments tend to produce.

CBD Oil for Pain Relief Can Increase Chance of Positive Cannabis Drug Test

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Tory R. Spindle, Ph.D
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences 
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Dr. Spindle

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Cannabis and hemp products that contain CBD as the primary constituent have become widely available in the U.S. and are often used for various therapeutic purposes. However, there is presently little research to understand how such products could impact drug testing for cannabis which is commonly conducted in workplace, criminal justice, and other settings.

Drug testing for cannabis targets a common metabolite of THC called THCCOOH; THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. Our results suggest that single use of a product that contains pure CBD would not produce a positive result on a standard urine drug test. However, we found that 2 of 6 participants tested positive for cannabis after they used a CBD-dominant strain of cannabis that contained a very low concentration of THC: only 0.39% THC.  

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Survey Finds Women Use Weed for Stress, Pain Relief

The “Women and Weed Survey”, conducted online by CVI (Canadian Viewpoint Inc.), on behalf of Van der Pop, found women used cannabis ‘for wellness reasons versus for social experiences’, with many regular users citing their primary reason for doing so was “to manage stress or relieve anxiety, followed by to manage pain or to combat symptoms of a medical condition (27%) and to relax (17%).”


Benefits and Harms of Plant-Based Cannabis for PTSD Reviewed

The Annals of Internal Medicine the benefits and harms of plant-based cannabis preparations in treating PTSD in adults.

O’Neil ME, Nugent SM, Morasco BJ, Freeman M, Low A, Kondo K, et al. Benefits and Harms of Plant-Based Cannabis for Posttraumatic Stress DisorderA Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 15 August 2017] doi: 10.7326/M17-0477