No Evidence That CBD Products Reduce Chronic Pain, Study Finds

No Evidence That CBD Products Reduce Chronic Pain, Study Finds

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A new study has concluded that there is no evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) products reduce chronic pain, suggesting that they are not good value for money and even have the potential to harm health.

The study is published in The Journal of Pain.

Availability of CBD

CBD is a chemical produced naturally by the cannabis plant. It has grown rapidly in popularity and is available in the form of various products such as oils, vapors, creams, soft drinks and edibles.

Patients with conditions such as epilepsy, chemotherapy-related nausea, and multiple sclerosis may occasionally receive CBD, and it is now increasingly being used as an alternative to pain treatments. However, the researchers of the new study explained that there is little evidence to support this.

“CBD presents a big problem for consumers,” said Chris Eccleston, lead author of the study and professor at the University of Bath’s Center for Pain Research. “It’s touted as a cure-all for pain, but there’s a complete lack of high-quality evidence that it has any positive effects.”

“It’s almost as if chronic pain patients don’t matter, and we’re happy that people are exchanging hope and despair,” he added.

Up to 20% of the European population lives with chronic pain, and sufferers are now looking to CBD products to try to alleviate their symptoms despite their high cost and lack of data on efficacy and safety.

“For too many people with chronic pain, there is no medication to control their pain. Chronic pain can be horrible, so people are highly motivated to find pain relief by any means. This makes them vulnerable to wild promises made about CBD,” explained Dr Andrew Moore, study co-author and former senior pain researcher at Oxford University’s Nuffield Division of Anesthesia.

The study suggests that CBD is not effective for chronic pain

Researchers in the new study, from the universities of Bath, Oxford and Alberta, assessed several issues related to CBD products. First, they found that there is no guarantee that the amount of CBD in a product is as advertised, with levels ranging from zero to well above the stated amount.

Also, some products may contain chemicals other than CBD that can be harmful. This includes tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical produced by the cannabis plant. This presents problems for possession and supply, as there is the potential for some products to contain THC beyond legal levels.

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The researchers also evaluated randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated the effect of pharmaceutical grade CBD on pain. Of the 16 RCTs they examined, 15 concluded that CBD had no greater effect on pain relief than a placebo.

Several meta-analyses (a study that combines the results of multiple other studies) also found that CBD products were associated with increased rates of serious adverse events and liver toxicity.

Chronic pain needs to be focused

Non-medical CBD is available in the UK, US and Europe as long as it contains negligible THC. However, there is no regulation on the content or quality of the product, as these are not covered by the trade rules.

“What this means is there are no protections for the consumer,” Moore said. “And without a compensatory body to keep CBD sellers in check, the false promises made about CBD’s pain-relieving effects are unlikely to slow down in the coming years.”

The study’s researchers call for taking chronic pain more seriously and prioritizing consumer protection.

“Untreated chronic pain is known to seriously impair quality of life, and many people live with pain every day and for the rest of their lives,” Eccleston said. “Pain deserves investment in serious science to find serious solutions.”

Reference: Moore A, Straube S, Fisher E, Eccleston C. Cannabidiol (CBD) products for pain: ineffective, expensive and potentially harmful. J Pain. 2024;25(4):833-842. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2023.10.009

This article is a rework of a press release issued by [name of institute]. The material has been edited for length and content.

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