America is currently living through an opioid epidemic that has had deadly consequences for its communities for decades. 2020 was the deadliest on record with over 75,000 overdoses directly related to opioids. Many observers agree this crisis was born in the early 1990s and was exacerbated in 1995 by the licensing and the mass marketing of the Purdue Pharma manufactured Oxycontin, an opiate-based painkiller prescribed for pain relief. Researchers across the field have recently begun to study how cannabis can be used to help combat not just the pain that patients are suffering from, but also the country’s over-reliance on prescription opioids.
One such study, conducted jointly in New York and Florida USA by researchers from healthcare provider NYU Langone Health, assessed the efficacy, feasibility and overall safety of a new CBD product in treating postoperative pain in patients who have recently been through a shoulder operation.
The product, named ORAVEXX, was tested in a phase 1/2 clinical trial and involved 99 participants all between the age of 18-75. All of the participants had just had surgery to repair the part of the shoulder known as their rotator cuff. Half of the group were treated with the CBD product, the other half was a control group that received a placebo. Their pain was measured using a standardised tool called Visual Analog Scale (VAS).
Results presented at the 2022 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in Chicago USA showed that on the day of surgery, patients who received the CBD treatment experienced 23% less pain than those in the control group.
On the first and second day of the patients’ post-operative care, those receiving the CBD reported between 22%-25% greater satisfaction with pain control than those in the control group. Half of the patients in the CBD receiving group were given 50 mg of CBD, and half were given 25 mg. Half of the group that was given 50 mg of CBD reported a ‘greater satisfaction with pain control’ than the half receiving 25 mg.
Lead researcher on the trial, Michael J. Alaia, MD, associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at NYU Langone Health said, “There is an urgent need for viable alternatives for pain management, and our study presents this form of CBD as a promising tool after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. It could be a new, inexpensive approach for delivering pain relief, and without the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs like NSAIDs and addiction risks linked to opiates. Additionally, CBD has the benefit of pain relief without the psychotropic effects associated with THC or marijuana.”
This study has produced positive results showing cannabis, specifically the cannabinoid CBD, may be a safe and helpful tool in the fight against pain and society’s over-reliance on prescribed opioids. However, the size of the cohort in this clinical study suggests more research is needed.