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Cannabis that gets you high could also relieve pain

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Cannabis therapies for pain relief have often been described as ‘the hippie’s disappointment’ because the psychoactive chemical that gets people high has been removed.

But using the whole cannabis plant—including THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)—can be effective in relieving short-term pain, researchers from Oregon Health and Science University have discovered.

But it comes at a cost. The whole plant can also increase the risk of dizziness and sedation, compared to the CBD version, which has had the THC extracted.

The researchers reviewed 25 studies that had tested CBD and whole plant products on a total of 15,000 people suffering from nerve pains.  

Synthetic products with high levels of THC achieved a “moderate improvement” in the level of pain, but tests on extracted products—the more ‘natural’ form—were more likely to end prematurely because of the therapy’s side effects.  These achieved “small improvements” in pain levels but were much more likely to cause dizziness and nausea.

But although there has been a buzz around CBD and cannabis therapies in the past few years, research into their effectiveness and safety has been limited, the researchers say.

(Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, 2022; doi: 10.7326/M21-4520)

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