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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cannabis and pain : examining the relationship between frequent cannabis use and pain sensitivity Thiessen, Michelle S.


Recent years have seen an increase in the adoption of cannabinoid medicines and chronic pain has emerged as the most prominent condition treated. Although cannabinoid therapies have been shown to be modestly effective in the treatment of chronic pain across several randomized-controlled trials, the extent to which frequent cannabis use influences sensitivity to acute pain has not been systematically examined. Such a determination is clinically relevant given hypersensitivity to pain associated with prolonged use of other analgesics such as opioids and reports of increased pain sensitivity to experimentally induced pain during acute cannabis intoxication. The present study was the first to examine the effect of frequent cannabis use on pain sensitivity, relative to controls, in the absence of intoxication. Participants (N = 80; 59% female) completed a cold-pressor task and a retrospective pain diary. Results demonstrated that frequent cannabis use was not associated with hyperalgesia as cannabis users (n = 40) and non-users (n = 40) were equally tolerant (OR = 1.01, p > .05) and equally sensitive to pain (OR = 0.93, p > .05) and reported no differences in pain intensity (OR = 1.00, p > .05) or pain in the past-month (OR = 0.85, p > .05), a finding that was consistent across gender. The failure to identify cannabis hyperalgesia represents an important advantage of therapeutic cannabis use for pain therapy.

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