Study: strong evidence that cannabis can significantly alleviate pain, with the average user experiencing a three-point drop in pain suffering

Study Confirms Cannabis Flower Is An Effective Mid-Level Analgesic Medication For Pain

Using the largest database of real-time recordings of the effects of common and commercially available cannabis products in the United States (U.S.), researchers at The University of New Mexico (UNM) found strong evidence that cannabis can significantly alleviate pain, with the average user experiencing a three-point drop in pain suffering on a 0-10 point scale immediately following cannabis consumption.

With a mounting opioid epidemic at full force and relatively few alternative pain medications available to the general public, scientists found conclusive support that cannabis is very effective at reducing pain caused by different types of health conditions, with relatively minimal negative side effects.

Chronic pain afflicts more than 20% 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.

“Our country has been flooded with an over-prescription of opioids medications, which then often leads to non-prescription opioid and heroin use for many people.

This man-made disaster is killing our families and friends, regardless of socio-economic status, skin tone, and other superficial human differences” said Jacob Miguel Vigil, one of the lead investigators of the study, titled “The Effectiveness of Self-Directed Medical Cannabis Treatment for Pain”, published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

Vigil explains, “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 researchers 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, providing the user invaluable feedback on their health status, medication choices, and the clinical outcomes of those choices as measured by symptom relief and side effects.

Scientifically, software like the Releaf App enables researchers to overcome the inherent limitations of government-funded clinical trials on the real-time effects of Cannabis, which are rare in general, but also often limited by onerous federal regulations, including its Schedule I status (no accepted medical use and a high abuse potential) and the mandate that investigators use the notoriously poor quality and low potency cannabis products supplied by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

“Even just rescheduling cannabis just from Schedule I to Schedule II, i.e., classifying it with fentanyl, oxycodone, and cocaine rather than heroin and ecstasy, could dramatically improve our ability to conduct research and only would require that the DEA recognizes that accepted medical uses for cannabis exist, as clearly evidenced by our results and the flourishing medical cannabis programs in the majority of U.S. states,” pointed out co-author Sarah Stith.

Among the study’s findings 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, based on the massive database explored in the study.

“Cannabis likely has numerous constituents that possess analgesic properties beyond THC, including terpenes and flavonoids, which likely act synergistically for people that use whole dried cannabis flower,” said Vigil, “Our 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 our 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, and when given this opportunity, I’ve seen numerous chronic pain patients substitute away from opioid use, among many other classes of medications, in favor of medical cannabis.”

“Perhaps the most surprising result is just how widespread relief was with symptom relief reported in about 95 percent of cannabis administration sessions and across a wide variety of different types of pain,” added lead author of the study, Xiaoxue Li.

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 “pain,” explains Vigil.

“When compared to the negative health risks associated with opioid use, which currently takes the lives of over 115 Americans a day, cannabis may be an obvious value to patients. Chronic opioid use is associated with poorer quality of life, social isolation, lower immune functioning and early morbidity. In contrast, my own ongoing research increasingly suggests that cannabis use is associated with a reversal of each of these potential outcomes,” said Vigil

Source:University of New Mexico


5 Responses

  1. Misreported Science!

    This “Researcher” is really good at getting media attention, and distorting science. His “Study” used only self selected people who already used marijuana, and were willing to use an App. The advertising for the App and the local marijuana industry are all evident in his research. Nowhere in his study does it state how many of his subjects were even diagnosed with a pain disorder.

    This study relies on self reported “pain” and marijuana use, in a population where many believe that marijuana is a cure for everything. This researcher relies on funding from the very profitable medical marijuana industry, and it is not a coincidence that his research partner is an economist. It is also not a coincidence that he is not a medical doctor, because there are still a few regulations about physicians and misleading public health statements.

    In New Mexico, there are no regulations on marijuana advertising, even though they legalized medical marijuana. Mr Vigil even got local TV news coverage for his “study.” Of course setting up a study like this is highly unscientific and not ethical, but the news does not mention any of that. The medical marijuana industry will fund this kind of half baked research, and the media will misreport on the significance.

    In a radio interview this researcher blamed pain patients for addiction and crime. Every one of his studies conflates addiction with dependence, and overstates the role of pain patients in the so called addiction crisis. New Mexico has the dubious distinction of having a heroin addiction problem that precedes the so called prescription drug crisis. They also allow any kind false claim to be made in advertising, as long as it repeats the terrifying public health message about opiates.

    The University of New Mexico, allows this kind of misreported science to be released, as free source of public relations and advertising. Here is one of this researchers gems, This public relations release of an unscientific study, with misogynist tones, got attention worldwide. New Mexico does not have much local news about the University that is positive. they are in the midst of a corruption scandal.

    UNM exemplifies the role of funding in undermining scientific research. Psychology relies on qualitative data, which is often biased. One of the Physicians at the UNM Pain Clinic, took money from a tape company, that was later convicted of fraud. They even made claims that taping could treat opioid addiction. This kind of corporate and industry funding of academia , has undermined research, and turned it into a deceptive marketing campaign.

    While marijuana may be effective for certain kinds of pain, and might be even more effective in fighting pain, by allowing people with chronic pain to sleep without dangerous drugs, this kind of misreported science only spreads misinformation, and exploits vulnerable patients. the use of academic studies for industry supported advertising, is adding to the misinformation. The way the state of New Mexico rolled out it’s medical marijuana program, allows the industry to exploit vulnerable patients. The “non profit” dispensaries target vulnerable patients for up selling, of concentrated marijuana products, herbal tonics, expensive celebrity endorsed smoking devices,and T shirts.

    The only science involved here is marketing science. There is a severe shortage of physicians in New Mexico, and many people do not have access to competent healthcare. The state legislature recently approved naturopaths, and allows chiropractors and acupuncturists to practice Stem Cell treatments. Data tells us that this state has some of the highest rates of suicide, addiction, and alcoholism in the nation. State regulators cannot tell the difference between misleading marketing and factual evidence. Even the state department of heath advertises chiropractors, instead of evidence based healthcare.

    • Yeah. A group of us on another forum study … studies. And no research has shown this..most studies show the exact opposite.

      How could one study out of many worldwide studies confirm the opposite? It is a good question.

  2. Doesn’t work for my pain! Maybe this is more BS to take our meds!

  3. I know it works well in conjunction with prescribed narcotic pain relievers. Alone it does hardly anything but keep me from ending it completely. I began taking thc for seizures in 2011 and haven’t had seizure activity since. Ive been in pain for over 4 decades marijuana keeps the suicidal thoughts at bay that come from being in intractable for so long. I have also spoke with a few doctors that are not against using marijuana because they know these patients require less medication for those that smoke it. Many doctors that treat pain are against it because they have to side on the federal level regardless what the state’s say. In Washington state it is legal at the recreational level now and not necessary really you have a medical license unless you’re growing your own. My doctors clinic is allowing for patients that take thc and say as long as it’s legal at the state level they will continue to prescribe. I did experience issues with a couple of pm offices from one month to the next you didn’t know if they were going to ban it or not. Id go in and be told id have to quit smoking and bring my thc numbers down or they’d stop treating me so I would quit just to be told the next month it was ok to continue smoking. It’s a pretty gray area and I think there should be some studies done to suppirt people who take it along with pain management. For me it’s clear that smoking cannabis has done a lot to keep me sane and seizure free since I began smoking. Im hoping that we’ll see the end of marijuana prohibition in my lifetime.

  4. Sorry, doesn’t even come close for this pain patient and for me it has too many negative side effects.

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