Cannabinoids used to treat acute pain

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A new systematic review and meta-analysis showed a small but significant reduction in subjective pain scores for cannabinoid treatment compared to placebo in patients experiencing acute pain. No increase in serious adverse events suggested the safety of using cannabinoids to treat acute pain, according to a new study published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

The researchers included six trials in their study, five using oral cannabinoids, and one using intramuscular cannabinoids. They reported a significant difference in effect size between the oral and nonoral routes of administration, with intramuscular cannabinoids yielding a significant reduction in pain relative to placebo. There was no difference in effect between oral cannabinoids and placebo, according to the study.

Though the results are promising, the researchers concluded there is low-quality evidence indicating that cannabinoids may be a safe alternative for a small but significant reduction in subjective pain score when treating acute pain, with intramuscular administration resulting in a greater reduction relative to oral. The next step would be higher quality, long-term, randomized-controlled trials examining whether there may be a role for cannabinoids in treating acute pain.

“The usefulness of cannabis-derived medicines in the treatment of pain, both acute and chronic, is still vigorously debated,” said Daniele Piomelli, PhD, editor-in-chief of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, in a statement. “The meta-analysis conducted in this study reinforces the need for more rigorous studies to assess whether cannabis might be effective in the treatment of acute pain conditions.”