UK researchers studying the effects of cannabinoids on cancer pain recently got a major boost when their real-world evidence study was endorsed by the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI). The researchers work for London-based CBD Science Group.
To date, cannabinoids have been considered a controversial option for treating cancer pain. But with acceptance of cannabis as a plant with medicinal applications growing around the world, now seems to be the ideal time to look into cannabinoids as a possible pain treatment option.
Cannabis plants contain more than a hundred different cannabinoids. Exactly how those cannabinoids might be harnessed to treat cancer pain is unclear. However, chronic pain is one of the qualifying conditions for which most states with medical cannabis programs allow the use of THC-derived medicines. As long as patients are using cannabinoids to find relief from pain, we might as well study whether they work.
What Causes Cancer Pain
Cancer pain is unique in many ways, say the chronic pain specialists at Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX. The most compelling aspect of cancer pain is discovering exactly what is causing it. Generally speaking, pain is a symptom of something else. Cancer patients are in a unique position in the sense that so many different things can cause the pain they feel.
Cancer pain can be related to:
- the diseased tissue itself
- tumors pressing on nerves
- cancer treatments (radiation, chemotherapy, etc.)
- inflammation related to the disease or its treatment.
Lone Star clinicians say that it is not unusual for cancer patients to present pain being caused by several different things simultaneously. For example, a patient might be experiencing pain as a result of surgery to remove a tumor. Meanwhile, another tumor is causing pain by pressing on nerves.
A Possible Role for Cannabinoids
Over in the UK, researchers want to know if there is a possible role for cannabinoids in treating cancer pain. They already know that cannabinoids affect the human endocannabinoid system in one way or another. For instance, THC is the cannabinoid found in marijuana plants that creates euphoric feelings. CBD is a cannabinoid found in hemp. It does not create that high feeling, but it can help patients relax.
As things currently stand, science doesn’t yet know enough about cannabinoids to definitively say they are an effective option for treating cancer pain. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to that effect, but hard and fast data has been difficult to come by. Thankfully, changing attitudes regarding cannabinoids and marijuana afford new opportunities for research.
It is possible that research will eventually reveal THC as the best cannabinoid for treating pain. Research could also identify other cannabinoids that are more effective than THC. It could even show that cannabinoids’ effectiveness as a pain treatment are merely psychosomatic. But until the research is done, we will not know for sure.
More Research in the U.S.
The UK research could prove vitally important to our understanding of cannabinoids as medicines. In the meantime, more research is needed here as well. It has so far been lacking thanks to very restrictive federal rules that limit how much cannabis researchers can possess for the purposes of doing what they do. Perhaps it is time to loosen those restrictions and let the research begin in earnest.
UK researchers hope to discover whether cannabinoids can effectively treat cancer pain. If they can prove cannabinoids’ efficacy, decades of anecdotal evidence will finally be given the attention it deserves. If they prove the opposite, we will have to rethink our attitudes toward cannabis as a medicine.