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NIH to Investigate Minor Cannabinoids and Terpenes for Potential Pain-Relieving Properties

Nine new research awards totaling approximately $3 million will investigate the potential pain-relieving properties and mechanisms of actions of the diverse phytochemicals in cannabis, including both minor cannabinoids and terpenes. These awards, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will strengthen the evidence regarding cannabis components and whether they have potential roles in pain management.

Association Between Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Overdose Mortality has Reversed Over Time

​Medical cannabis has been touted as a solution to the US opioid overdose crisis since Bachhuber et al. [M. A. Bachhuber, B. Saloner, C. O. Cunningham, C. L. Barry, JAMA Intern. Med. 174, 1668–1673] found that from 1999 to 2010 states with medical cannabis laws experienced slower increases in opioid analgesic overdose mortality. That research received substantial attention in the scientific literature and popular press and served as a talking point for the cannabis industry and its advocates, despite caveats from the authors and others to exercise caution when using ecological correlations to draw causal, individual-level conclusions.

AAPM Issues Updated Position Statement on Research into the Use of Cannabinoids for Medical Purposes

More than 30 states as well as Washington D.C. have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, making it more accessible than ever before to patients throughout the country, including patients suffering from chronic pain. However, major systematic reviews on the use of cannabinoids for chronic pain have yielded conflicting conclusions regarding their effectiveness and safety.

“The lack of high quality, evidence-based clinical research into the use of cannabinoids for chronic pain, leaves both clinicians and patients at a distinct disadvantage when weighing the risks and benefits of considering cannabinoids as a pain treatment,” says AAPM Scientific Review and Guidelines Committee Co-Chair, Michael D. Osborne, MD.

On May 30 the AAPM Board of Directors approved an updated position statement on research into the use of cannabinoids for medical purposes, urging FDA to reschedule cannabinoids from Schedule I to Schedule II in order to facilitate needed research into the medical effectiveness, substance toxicity, and overall safety of these products for the treatment of pain. Read the full position statement.

“AAPM promotes individualized, patient-centered pain care delivered by a multidisciplinary team and employing the wide variety of therapies available to improve patient function and reduce suffering. In order for cannabinoids to become a trusted part of the pain management tool kit, it is essential to conduct further research,” says AAPM Scientific Review and Guidelines Committee Co-Chair, Randall Brewer, MD. “We believe that rescheduling tetrahydrocannabinol, an active ingredient in marijuana, will be a critical step in facilitating the necessary research to determine the role of cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic pain.”

Pain Medicine Journal
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American Academy of Pain Medicine