Study Finds Marijuana Terpenes to be as Effective as Morphine for Pain Relief with Fewer Side Effects

Study Finds Marijuana Terpenes to be as Effective as Morphine for Pain Relief with Fewer Side EffectsA new federally funded study conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona’s Comprehensive Center for Pain and Addiction and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has shed light on the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis terpenes in managing chronic neuropathic pain. The study, published in PAIN, the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain, delved into how terpenes from Cannabis sativa could serve as effective analgesics with minimal rewarding or dysphoric side effects.

The study compared the efficacy of terpenes to that of morphine, a commonly used opioid analgesic for chronic pain management. Surprisingly, terpenes were found to produce a roughly equal reduction in pain markers when compared to morphine, without inducing a meaningful reward response. The research also highlighted that a combination therapy involving both terpenes and morphine could enhance pain relief while mitigating the addictive potential of opioids.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants, but Cannabis stands out for containing up to 150 different terpenes, each with varying biological effects. The study focused on five terpenes – alpha-humulene, beta-caryophyllene, beta-pinene, geraniol, and linalool – all of which are present in moderate to high levels in Cannabis.

In animal models of chronic neuropathic and inflammatory pain induced through chemotherapy drugs and injections respectively, terpenes were administered through injection, oral ingestion, and vaporization. The results showed that all tested terpenes exhibited antinociceptive effects on neuropathic pain markers, with some also displaying efficacy against inflammatory pain.

Mechanistic investigations revealed that terpenes may interact with adenosine A2A receptors in the nervous system to modulate pain responses. This novel mechanism of action suggests that terpenes may have anti-inflammatory properties in addition to their direct analgesic effects.

Notably, two terpenes – geraniol and linalool – demonstrated neutral conditioning without eliciting preference or aversion responses, indicating their potential as effective analgesics with minimal side effects. On the other hand, a-humulene and b-caryophyllene showed place aversion responses, suggesting possible dysphoric effects under certain conditions.

The study emphasized the importance of further research to overcome translational challenges such as limited bioavailability of orally or inhalation-administered terpenes. Despite these hurdles, the findings offer promising insights into the therapeutic potential of terpenes for managing chronic pain.

Overall, this study adds to a growing body of research on the entourage effect observed in Cannabis, where synergistic interactions between cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant compounds lead to enhanced therapeutic outcomes. By exploring the diverse chemical components of Cannabis and their complex interactions, researchers aim to develop more effective and safer treatments for various health conditions.

In conclusion, the study underscores the valuable role of cannabis terpenes as potent analgesics for chronic neuropathic pain management. Further studies are warranted to elucidate their mechanisms of action and optimize their clinical utility for improved patient outcomes.

Dr. Paul Miller, MD

Dr. Miller is committed to finding new and innovative ways to help his patients manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. He has a particular interest in the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis and is passionate about educating both his colleagues and patients on its safe and effective use. He is also committed to continuing his education and staying up-to-date on the latest advances in neurology and cannabis research.

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