Pain relief from cannabis may come from a belief it helps, a new study finds
In line with general principles of human perception, expectations of possible pain relief can modulate sensory processing and thereby reduce the perception of incoming pain signals.
Cannabinoids’ therapeutic benefits have drawn more attention in recent years, and several countries are beginning to include them in their standard medical practices. Despite the increased demand for cannabinoids among individuals with persistent pain, there is little to no evidence to support its effectiveness for analgesic – acting to relieve pain – efficacy.
In a new study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers through a systematic review and meta-analysis, aim to evaluate the size of placebo responses in randomized clinical trials in which cannabinoids were compared with placebo – that has no therapeutic effect – in the treatment of pain and to correlate these responses to objective estimates of media attention.
The 20 trials analyzed in the study included a total of 1459 individuals with pain, with a mean age of 51 years, and an age range between 39-62 years. Of all participants, 815 were female (56%) and 644 were male (44%). As the authors go on to discuss, the data from the present meta-analysis, suggest that placebo responses contribute significantly to the pain reduction seen in cannabinoid-randomized clinical trials.
The extensive media attention surrounding cannabinoid (also known as marijuana) trials may create expectations and influence placebo responses in subsequent trials. Clinical trial results, regulatory choices, clinical decisions, and ultimately patient access to cannabinoids for pain management could all be impacted by this influence.