Chronic pain is one of the major causes of disability in the US. In fact, as many as 40% of the US adult population will have chronic pain in their lifetime . While opioids are the main drug used to help cope with this condition, they have many side effects. But several recent studies have shown that CBD could help improve chronic pain conditions. Here’s what you should know about the latest research.
What is considered chronic pain?
Pain is the way your body signals something is wrong, and it involves a series of complex processes in your nervous system. But when it becomes a daily occurrence, it can make your life harder and even change your physiology. Scientists have been trying to understand the causes and consequences of chronic pain, but breakthroughs are few and far between. However, cannabinoids could offer a beacon of hope for chronic pain patients.
Researchers consider chronic pain as pain that lasts for 6 months of more, and appears on a consistent basis. “Regular” pain stops sending neural signals once the source is solved. However, chronic pain is caused by neural signals that keep firing regardless of the original wound.
Chronic pain can be caused by very diverse issues: surgeries, past injuries, migraines, autoimmune disorders, infections and many others. Certain conditions, like fibromyalgia and arthritis, cause chronic pain as the main symptom.
How chronic pain affects you
On top of the discomfort, chronic pain has been linked to other issues like depression, unhealthy sleep patterns, emotional distress and heightened stress levels. In turn, all these conditions can lower your pain threshold and make the pain feel stronger. This process is what researchers call the pain cycle.
Opioids are currently the main pain management drug, although it has many undesired side effects. Known opioid complications and side effects include sedation, vomiting, physical dependence and addiction .
Studies on CBD helping to improve chronic pain
Since opioids have so many important complications, researchers are always on the lookout for efficient alternatives to manage chronic pain. In this light, cannabinoids have shown promising effects on neuropathic pathways and could help patients dealing with pain every day.
A recent clinical trial  tested 131 chronic pain patients for 8 weeks, in order to see if CBD improved their quality of life. These patients were all between 30 and 65 years old, diagnosed with chronic pain conditions and had been on opioids for at least a year prior to the study. Every patient chose their personal dose of oral CBD based on a soft gel containing 15.7 mg CBD. The majority of patients chose to take 2 doses of CBD a day.
Based on that, 53% of chronic pain patients lowered or completely eliminated their opioid intake within 8 weeks of adding CBD. Plus, 94% of patients stated their quality of life improved.
So, what does this mean? For starters, this kind of study shows a direct link between CBD intake, quality of life and pain management in adult patients. As such, cannabinoids are looking more and more as a possibile opioid alternative to deal with chronic pain.
Of course, this study was relatively small and doesn’t contrast different ways of taking cannabidiol, like orally or topically. However the studies look promising.
Note: We are not suggesting that CBD can cure or treat any disease, but that it can possibly help with symptoms.
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- Dahlhamer J, Lucas J, Zelaya, C, et al. Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:1001–1006. Available here.
- Capano A, Weaver R, Burkman E. (2020). Evaluation of the effects of CBD hemp extract on opioid use and quality of life indicators in chronic pain patients: a prospective cohort study. Postgrad Med. 132(1):56-61. doi: 10.1080/00325481.2019.1685298. Epub 2019 Nov 12. PMID: 31711352 Clinical Trial.