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No Evidence of Altered Reactivity to Experimentally Induced Pain Among Regular Cannabis Users

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Objectives:

Recent years have seen an increase in the adoption of cannabinoid medicines, which have demonstrated effectiveness for the treatment of chronic pain. However, the extent to which frequent cannabis use (CU) influences sensitivity to acute pain has not been systematically examined. Such a determination is clinically relevant in light of hypersensitivity to pain associated with prolonged use of other analgesics such as opioids, and reports of increased pain sensitivity to experimentally induced pain during acute cannabis intoxication. This study explored differences in measures of pain intensity and tolerance. The authors hypothesized that individuals who report frequent CU would demonstrate greater experimental pain sensitivity.

Materials and Methods:

Frequent cannabis users (≥3× per week; n=40) and nonusers (n=40) were compared on pain sensitivity, pain tolerance, and pain intensity in response to a cold-pressor task. Group differences were examined.

Results:

Frequent CU was not associated with hyperalgesia as cannabis users and nonusers did not exhibit differences on measures of pain tolerance (t (78)=−0.05; P=0.96), sensitivity (t (78)=−0.83; P=0.41), or intensity (t (78)=0.36; P=0.72).

Discussion:

Frequent cannabis users did not demonstrate hyperalgesia. This finding should help to inform evaluations of the relative harms and benefits of cannabis analgesic therapies.

Keywords: acute pain; cannabis; hyperalgesia; medical marijuana; pain

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, The University of British Columbia, Kelowna, BC, Canada 2: International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI), Prague, Czechia

Publication date: August 8, 2020

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