There have been few major developments in the area of analgesia for decades. The most recent was opioids in the 80’s, whose dangers were understated and resulted in a vast addiction crisis across the United States and elsewhere. The recent changes to marijuana legislation have made studying cannabinoids easier, and the potential of the endocannabinoid system, the receptors and ligands that cannabinoids interact with, as a target for analgesia is substantial.
Cannabinoids can exert both anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, which can work together to treat or make many conditions more tolerable and less dangerous. Cannabis has been used for millennia for these reasons, but now science is catching up and developing targeted treatments for pain via the endocannabinoid system.
This paper this research is based on summarizes the neuropathic and inflammatory pain relief properties of cannabinoids, and highlights the diversity of pain sources that can be targeted, and the effectiveness of cannabinoid therapy. The negatives are also discussed, including the problems of smoking, the inconsistency of “medical marijuana”, and the negative psychoactivity of some cannabinoids.
There are far too many applications in which the authors cite the positive effects of cannabis or cannabinoids to list here. They discuss the role of the endocannabinoid system in a variety of common inflammatory, auto-immune, disease states, and other causes of chronic pain.
The roles of CB1, CB2, 5-HT1A, and other probable endocannabinoid receptors is explored and evaluated. The wide-ranging regulatory and signaling roles that endocannabinoid receptors play in pain signaling, inflammation, immune response and metabolism present dozens of targets for future research and analgesic applications.
The authors discuss at some length the different applications of cannabinoids in analgesia. By reducing inflammation, the sensitivity, dysregulation, and threshold of damaged or inflamed neurons is changed, reducing the number of pain signals relayed to the brain, and the levels of pain perceived.
By directly modulating the signaling thresholds of sensory and communication neurons via CB1 receptors, some cannabinoids can be as effective analgesics as common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen or even some opioids and opiates.
The main attraction of targeting the endocannabinoid system for effective analgesia is not that cannabinoids appear to produce broad and effective results via a wide range of interactions, it is that they. Some cannabinoids can produce unwanted and dangerous psychoactive effects, however, the majority do not and have excellent safety profiles.
This means they can be administered at high doses for powerful and immediate results, even in the long-term.
Smoking cannabis is clearly dangerous and an inefficient way of administering cannabinoids. Using the cannabis plant for cannabinoid doses is inconsistent in a way that makes effective administration difficult. There are some long-term mental health risks with repeated use of high-THC cannabis.
The authors conclude that cannabinoids, and to a lesser extent cannabis, are very promising drugs for the relief of inflammatory and neuropathic pain in a wide variety of situations and conditions.