NIH begins funding cannabinoids for pain relief

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Despite a lack of robust evidence, cannabinoids such as CBD are often assumed to be safe and effective in managing pain and used for such purposes in real-world settings. Now, nine new research awards totaling approximately $3 million will investigate the potential pain-relieving properties and mechanisms of actions of the diverse phytochemicals in cannabis, including both minor cannabinoids and terpenes. These awards, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will strengthen the evidence regarding cannabis components and whether they have potential roles in pain management.

“The treatment of chronic pain has relied heavily on opioids, despite their potential for addiction and overdose and the fact that they often don’t work well when used on a long-term basis,” said Helene Langevin, M.D., director of NCCIH. “ There’s an urgent need for more effective and safer options.”

Minor cannabinoids (those other than THC, the high-inducing component of marijuana) and certain terpenes found in the cannabis plant may have analgesic properties, but there has been little research on these substances to understand their effects and underlying mechanisms. The cannabis plant contains more than 110 cannabinoids and 120 terpenes, but the only compound that’s been studied extensively is THC.

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