Treating pain is the primary reason countless Americans turn to products containing cannabinoids, the principal active compounds in marijuana. Yet, compelling evidence suggests that a cannabis placebo might provide similar pain relief. A placebo is designed to look, smell, taste, and feel like marijuana but without the active components. As Harvard Health explores, this raises questions about cannabis’s effectiveness in pain management.
Usage of cannabis, particularly among adults over 65, has seen an eightfold increase, with up to 80% using it for pain treatment, according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch. Despite this trend, the question remains whether the relief experienced is due to the drug’s properties or a psychological effect.
Research efforts, such as those by the University of Colorado, aim to recruit subjects to determine how different combinations of THC and CBD affect pain, inflammation, cognition, mood, and other factors. This research might help to clarify whether the benefits of cannabis are due to its psychoactive elements or other properties.
While there is anecdotal evidence suggesting CBD’s potential in alleviating arthritis pain, large-scale and robust research is lacking. One comprehensive review by Harvard Medical School found “substantial evidence” supporting cannabis as an effective chronic pain treatment in adults, yet the risks, especially for those over 55, must be weighed.
Medical cannabis, particularly varieties low in THC and high in other compounds like CBD and CBN, has been noted for assisting with pain and spasticity in spinal cord injuries, as discussed by the University of Washington. Patients suffering from HIV-related pain and wasting syndrome, as well as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, have reported relief with medical marijuana, as outlined by Harvard Health.
The debate continues, with many considering the potential of cannabis as a pain reliever, while others question whether its effects are primarily psychological or require further scientific validation.