Study: Cannabis Does Not Lead to Increased Pain Sensitivity
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In what researchers called “good news” for those who use cannabis to treat pain, a new study has found that managing pain with marijuana does not lead to the increased pain sensitivity experienced by those who use opioids.
The study represents the latest positive research around the use of cannabis to manage pain, something both old and young cannabis users have started to do in larger numbers. Previous research has addressed the efficacy of cannabis in pain management.
The new study, conducted by the University of British Columbia, focused on how cannabis impacts pain sensitivity. It’s an area not systematically researched in the past.
Study co-author Zach Walsh, who leads the university’s Therapeutic Recreational and Problematic Substance Use Lab, told Science Daily the study “should come as good news to patients who are already using cannabis to treat pain. Increases in pain sensitivity with opioids can really complicate an already tough situation; given increasing uptake of cannabis-based pain medications, it's a relief that we didn't identify a similar pattern with cannabinoids."
The risk of hyperalgesia is an issue with opioids.
Sustained use of opioids is known to lead to increased sensitivity to pain. That can lead to hyperalgesia, increasing sensitivity and response to pain. With opioids, hyperalgesia may cause people to increase their doses to manage pain, leading to addiction.
Opioid addiction, including addiction to painkillers, has been considered an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2018 alone, 41 people died every day in the United States from overdoses involving prescription drugs.
Researchers speculated they might find a similar sensitivity issue with cannabis, but instead found that cannabis does not pose the same risk of hyperalgesia as opioid use does.
Cold water is apparently effective in determining your pain sensitivity.
For the study, volunteers agreed to use cannabis more than three times a week. Their reactions were compared with those who used no cannabis at all.
Every participant then went through a cold-pressor test, which involves submerging a hand and forearm in icy water for a sustained amount of time. The test evaluates reaction to intense cold by tracking blood pressure and heart rate. Patients who used cannabis exhibited no more pain sensitivity than those who did not.
Researchers said the findings represent an important consideration for those trying to choose how to address pain management. Study researcher Michelle St. Pierre said, “These findings are particularly relevant in light of recent reports of opioid overprescribing and high rates of pain in the population, as it suggests that cannabis may not carry the same risk of hyperalgesia as opioids."