Recent Research Gives Little Clarity to Cannabis as a Treatment for Chronic Pain

Healthline recently reported that some research on cannabis use for chronic pain has produced less insight than anticipated.

Getty Images / Healthline

Dr. Vernon Williams, a board-certified neurologist, a specialist in pain management, and Director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles spoke with Healthline on how chronic pain can be difficult to research.

“It’s not just about an electrical signal,” Williams stated. “There are emotional and environmental conditions that affect pain, as well as expectation and other contributing factors.”

“There’s an extremely significant placebo effect in studies of pain that can be very difficult to eliminate in studies. There are also the facts that chronic pain may be caused by a variety of various and diverse etiologies. the fact that it is subjective and it’s complicated,” he said.

“But the other social, legal and political aspects of cannabinoids further complicate the ability to easily study their effects on chronic pain,” Williams added.

Daniele Piomelli, Ph.D. Director of the Center for the Study of Cannabis at the University of California, Irvine said to Healthline that he agrees there are numerous obstacles in cannabis research.

“In out of the regulatory obstacles that cannabis faces, which are more than other drugs, cost of cannabis is an issue. The cost of a large-scale clinical study without having a company sponsor (e.g. a pharmaceutical corporation) is almost difficult,” Piomelli said.

Despite the difficulties surrounding cannabinoid research, it has the potential to decrease reliance on opioids.

“The main current treatment for chronic pain [is] the opioids, which don’t work well in chronic pain, are highly addictive and are rife with side effects. So, unsurprisingly, many persons living with pain are hopeful about cannabis,” said Piomelli.

Furthermore, cannabinoid studies provide medical professionals with a total understanding of the risks associated with their utilization. While some cannabis-based products may cause nausea, others might result in sedation. Other possible effects should be studied, too.

“The assumption that cannabinoids are ‘harmless’ is a view held by many lay individuals, but there are clearly risks associated with the use of cannabinoids that must be considered, studied, and reported,” said Williams.

All in all, the study of cannabinoids should determine their efficacy at treating chronic pain.

Louis Levey is the Content Success Manager and Founder at No Strings Content. He's passionate about helping cannabis businesses use content to attract, educate, and convert audiences. His hometown is Boca Raton, Florida, but he currently lives and works remotely in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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