Psychology Researchers Conduct First Systematic Review of Experimental Pain Research on Cannabis-Based Drugs

September 20, 2018
  

Researchers in the Department of Psychology have determined that cannabinoid drugs do not appear to reduce the intensity of experimental pain, but, instead, may make pain feel less unpleasant and more tolerable.

Martin De Vita G’17, a doctoral candidate in the clinical psychology program, is the lead author of a highly anticipated paper on the subject in JAMA Psychiatry (American Medical Association, 2018).

The paper, whose publication coincides with “Pain Awareness Month,” represents the first systematic review of experimental research into the effects of cannabis on pain.

“Cannabinoid drugs are widely used as analgesics [painkillers], but experimental pain studies have produced mixed findings,” says De Vita, who studies interactions between substance use and co-occurring health conditions. “Pain is a complex phenomenon with multiple dimensions that can be affected separately.”

De Vita and his co-authors in the Department of Psychology —doctoral candidate Dezarie Moskal, Professor Stephen Maisto and Emily Ansell—initially identified more than 1,830 experimental studies on cannabis that had been conducted in North America and Europe over a 40-year period. They whittled the group down to 18 studies, and extracted data from more than 440 adult participants.

The team found that cannabinoid drugs were associated with modest increases in experimental pain threshold and tolerance, no reduction in the intensity of ongoing experimental pain, reduced perceived unpleasantness of painful stimuli and no reduction of mechanical hyperalgesia. Read More.