It has been hailed as a wonder drug and it certainly creates amazing profits. According to some estimates, the cannabidiol (or CBD) market could be worth $ 20 billion by 2024.
While users tout its effectiveness in relieving pain, so far human experimental research on the drug’s actual effectiveness has been limited. However, a new study by university researchers sheds light on the ability of CBD to reduce pain as well as the impact the so-called placebo effect can have on pain outcomes.
“For science and the general public, the question remains, is the relief of the pain that CBD users claim to experience due to pharmacological effects or placebo effects,” says Martin De Vita, researcher in the Department of Psychology at College of Arts and Sciences. “That’s a good question because we know that just telling someone that a substance has the ability to relieve their pain can actually cause significant changes in their pain sensitivity. waiting effects. “
De Vita, along with Stephen Maisto, research professor and professor emeritus of psychology, were uniquely prepared to answer this exact question. The couple, along with fellow lab member and doctoral student Dezarie Moskal, previously conducted the first systematic review and meta-analysis of experimental research examining the effects of cannabinoids on pain.
As the first experimental pain trial to examine CBD, their study yielded consistent and remarkable results. Among other findings, data has shown that CBD and CBD expectations do not appear to reduce the intensity of experimental pain, but make the pain less uncomfortable.
De Vita and Maisto used sophisticated equipment that safely induces experimental heat pain, allowing them to measure how the recipient’s nervous system reacts and responds to it. “Then we give a drug, like pure CBD, or a placebo, and then reassess their pain reactions and see how they change depending on the substance being administered,” De Vita explains.
The researchers then went further by manipulating the information given to the participants about the substances they received. In some cases, participants were told that they received CBD when they received a placebo or that they would receive a placebo when they actually received CBD.
“That way, we could determine if it was the drug that relieved the pain, or if it was the wait until they had received the drug that reduced their pain,” according to De Vita. “We hypothesized that we would primarily detect expectancy-induced placebo analgesia (pain relief). What we’ve found after measuring several pain outcomes is that it’s actually a bit of both. Simply put, we found improvements in the pain measurements caused by the pharmacological effects of CBD and the psychological effects of simply expecting them to have obtained CBD. It was quite remarkable and surprising. “
“The data is exciting but quite complex in that different measures of pain responded differently to the effect of the drug, the wait, or both the drug and the wait combined – so we’re always trying to understand what is behind the differential data with different types of pain measurements, ”Maisto said. “The next step is to study the mechanisms underlying these findings and understand why giving instructions or CBD itself causes certain reactions to a pain stimulus.”
Most people think of pain as an on / off switch, either you have it or you don’t. But pain, as De Vita describes it, is a complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon influenced by psychological and biological factors.
For example, while pain intensity reflects a “sensory” dimension of pain, annoyance represents an “affective” or emotional aspect of pain. “If you think of pain as the harmful noise coming from a radio, the volume can represent the intensity of the pain, while the station can represent the quality,” says De Vita.
The results of his previous study showed that while cannabinoid drugs did not reduce the volume of pain, they “changed the channel, making it a little less uncomfortable.” According to De Vita, “It’s not the pleasant sun and rainbows, but something a little less annoying. We replicated it in this study and found that CBD and expectations did lower not significantly the volume of the pain, but they made it less unpleasant – – it didn’t bother them that much. “
As part of the study, De Vita and Maisto developed advanced experimental pain measurement protocols “to open the hood and start looking at some of these other mechanistic pain processes,” says De Vita. “It’s not just pain, yes or no, but there are these other dimensions of pain, and it would be interesting to see which ones are targeted. We have found that sometimes the pharmacological effects of CBD reduced some of it. between them, but the expectations did it. no. Sometimes they both did it. Sometimes it was just the wait. And so, we were in this thought that we were mainly going to detect the pain relief. of expectation, but what we found was far more complex than that and it’s exciting. “
An important note to also take into account is the source of the CBD. “What we used in our study was pure CBD isolate oil,” says De Vita. “Commercially available CBD products differ in content and purity, so results may be different for different CBD products, depending on what other compounds they may or may not contain.”