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Study finds CBD’s pain relief effect is real, but the mind plays a role

Many people who experience chronic pain report a degree of relief from the use of CBD, a non-psychoactive chemical found in cannabis. Although anecdotal reports often praise the substance for its pain-relieving effects, there are still doubts as to whether the drug is actually capable of reducing pain itself. A new study from Syracuse University sought to answer the question, finding that pain relief is real, but the user’s mind plays a role in the process.

CBD products come in many varieties, including oils, creams, candies and vapes. Although purity may vary by brand, these products are generally sold as THC-free, meaning that they do not give the user the “euphoric” stereotype associated with cannabis. CBD medical products are sold for several health benefits, one of which is pain relief.

The new study from Syracuse University assessed this potential benefit by exposing participants to pain from heat and assessed their responses to it. Some of the participants received CBD, while others received a placebo.

The researchers hoped that the placebo – that is, the expectation of receiving CBD and obtaining pain relief – would be the main factor influencing the perception of pain. And while that plays an important role, the study found, the pharmacological aspects of CBD also contributed to pain relief. One of the researchers behind the study, Professor Stephen Maisto, said:

The data is exciting but pretty complex in that different pain measures responded differently to the drug effect, to the expectancy, or both the drug and expectancy combined–so we’re still trying to figure out what is behind the differential data with different kinds of pain measures. The next step is studying the mechanisms underlying these findings and figuring out why giving instructions or CBD itself causes certain reactions to a pain stimulus.

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