Due to the rise in opioid-associated deaths, physicians and researchers are on the constant lookout for new, healthier options for pain relief for those with chronic pain. Now, from preliminary trials, researchers from the University of California have found that cannabis may be effective in relieving chronic pain from sickle cell disease.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial, 23 patients with sickle cell disease-related pain inhaled either vaporized cannabis or a placebo during two five-day inpatient sessions over a month apart. This way, the same patients could act as 'their own control group', meaning that all patients involved in the trial could access the cannabis treatment.
Assessing the participants' pain levels throughout the study period, the researchers found that the efficacy of cannabis for relieving pain appeared to increase over time. Towards the end of the five-day trial period, subjects tended to report less and less pain while engaging in everyday activities like walking and sleeping. The researchers also reported statistically significant declines in pain affecting the patients' mood while using cannabis in comparison to the placebo.
However, the researchers note that although pain levels were generally lower in patients given cannabis than those on a placebo, the difference was not statistically significant. Thus, they say that further research is needed to confirm whether cannabis is really effective in suppressing chronic pain from sickle cell disease.
"These trial results show that vaporized cannabis appears to be generally safe." says Kalpna Gypter, one of the study's authors. "They also suggest that sickle cell patients may be able to mitigate their pain with cannabis - and that cannabis might help society address the public health crisis related to opioids. Of course, we still need larger studies with more participants to give us a better picture of how cannabis could benefit people with chronic pain."