“Cannabis” by Don Goofy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cannabinoid Drugs May Slightly Increase Pain Threshold

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Cannabis” by Don Goofy is licensed under CC BY 2.0Martin De Vita, MS

Doctoral Candidate
Clinical Psychology Department
Syracuse University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Despite widely held beliefs that cannabis is effective for pain relief, experimental trials have produced mixed results. As result, the analgesic properties of cannabinoid drugs have remained poorly understood. We aimed to clarify these findings by extracting data from every available experimental pain study and analyzing the results as a whole. We found that numerous aspects of pain were being influenced in different ways. We found that cannabinoid drugs did not significantly reduce the intensity of experimental pain, but they did produce small-sized reductions in pain unpleasantness. Cannabinoids produced significant analgesic effects on pain threshold and tolerance. There was no significant effect of cannabinoids on mechanical hyperalgesia.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: Although cannabinoid drugs may prevent the onset of pain by producing small increases in pain thresholds, they did not significantly reduce the intensity of experimental pain that was already being experienced. Instead, cannabinoid drugs made experimental pain feel less unpleasant and more tolerable.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: It is still unclear as to whether these findings generalize to clinical pain conditions, which can vary greatly from one to another. More placebo-controlled trials must be conducted to determine which pain conditions are most likely to benefit from cannabinoid drugs. Also, we need to conduct more research on the analgesic effects of non-intoxicating cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD). 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Despite the answers we obtained from our findings, the results also created many more questions for us as scientist. It is imperative that we continue to build the evidence base to better inform clinical practice. 


De Vita MJ, Moskal D, Maisto SA, Ansell EB. Association of Cannabinoid Administration With Experimental Pain in Healthy AdultsA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online September 19, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.2503

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD