Researchers will study the effect of cannabidiol on the inflammatory response and resulting pain following a traumatic injury to reduce the use of opioids.
As many as 26 % of people admitted to the hospital with a bone fracture also have a head injury due to the shock that caused the fracture itself. And victims of head trauma suffer from acute pain that can last to the point where the possibility of recovery diminishes over time.
Now, thanks to a team grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Professor Louis De Beaumont of the Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal, is embarking on a groundbreaking research project to evaluate the effectiveness of cannabidiol (CBD) in reducing the inflammatory response of the brain and the resulting pain following a traumatic brain injury (TBI), thereby reducing the use of opioids.
Funded in the amount of $1.5 million over five years, the project is being conducted in collaboration with researchers from the universities of Sherbrooke, Laval, and McGill.
Evaluating the effect of cannabidiol on acute pain
CBD is, together with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the main constituents of cannabis, and scientists believe that it may play a role in reducing inflammation without the euphoric effects of THC. If its therapeutic effectiveness is confirmed, CBD could help limit the use of opioids for pain relief.
This research has four distinct components: one to study the potential and safety of CBD treatment in humans, and the other three will investigate the mechanisms of action and interactions with pain mediators in response to CBD treatment in animal models.
In the human randomized control clinical trial, researchers will compare the effect of two daily doses of CBD given for one month for pain relief in patients with both bone fracture and head injury. The study will also evaluate the potential of CBD as an adjunct to self-administered opioids.
We suspect that chronic pain, which occurs disproportionately in victims of both orthopedic injury and head trauma, is due to the synergy of the inflammatory processes triggered by the fracture and by CBD,” explains Louis De Beaumont.
He adds that the blood-brain barrier, whose role is to isolate the brain from undesirable substances, undergoes a “tremor that would allow the cytokines produced by the fracture to enter the central nervous system, resulting in an inflammatory storm that is partly responsible for the chronic pain”.
Decreasing the use of opioids
Pain intensity is the main predisposing factor for chronic pain after a traumatic injury. And despite the risk of addiction or potential abuse in patients, opioid use is common, as there are no other treatments available to relieve acute pain.
With CBD, we believe we can reduce the inflammatory response caused by the accident and thus reduce the risk of suffering chronic pain – which could lead patients to severely restrict their use of opioids,” says the neuropsychologist.
In addition to addiction and abuse, the other major problem with opioids is that their use over time and in large doses eventually increases pain (hyperalgesia) and tolerance to the drug.
It is important to be able to reduce – or even eliminate – the pain of polytrauma victims within 3 months of the trauma, otherwise chronic pain tends to set in for good,” concludes Louis De Beaumont.