Study Finds Marijuana Augments Analgesic Efficacy Of Opiates

According to a new study published by the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, the co-administration of marijuana and sub-therapeutic doses of oxycodone produces enhanced analgesic effects in human subjects.

“Cannabinoids combined with opioids produce synergistic antinociceptive effects, decreasing the lowest effective antinociceptive opioid dose (i.e., opioid-sparing effects) in laboratory animals”, begins the study’s abstract. “Although pain patients report greater analgesia when cannabis is used with opioids, no placebo-controlled studies have assessed the direct effects of opioids combined with cannabis in humans or the impact of the combination on abuse liability.”

With that in mind, “This double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject study determined if cannabis enhances the analgesic effects of low dose oxycodone using a validated experimental model of pain and its effects on abuse liability.”

For the study, “Healthy cannabis smokers (N = 18) were administered oxycodone with smoked cannabis and analgesia was assessed using the Cold-Pressor Test (CPT). Participants immersed their hand in cold water (4 °C); times to report pain (pain threshold) and withdraw the hand from the water (pain tolerance) were recorded.”

The abstract states that “Abuse-related effects were measured and effects of oxycodone on cannabis self-administration were determined. Alone, 5.0 mg oxycodone increased pain threshold and tolerance.” Although active cannabis and 2.5 mg oxycodone alone failed to elicit analgesia, “combined they increased pain threshold and tolerance.”

Oxycodone did not increase subjective ratings associated with cannabis abuse, nor did it increase cannabis self-administration. However, “the combination of 2.5 mg oxycodone and active cannabis produced small, yet significant, increases in oxycodone abuse liability.”

Researchers state that “Cannabis enhances the analgesic effects of sub-threshold oxycodone, suggesting synergy, without increases in cannabis’s abuse liability. These findings support future research into the therapeutic use of opioid-cannabinoid combinations for pain.”

The full abstract of the study, titled Impact of co-administration of oxycodone and smoked cannabis on analgesia and abuse liability, can be found below:

Cannabinoids combined with opioids produce synergistic antinociceptive effects, decreasing the lowest effective antinociceptive opioid dose (i.e., opioid-sparing effects) in laboratory animals. Although pain patients report greater analgesia when cannabis is used with opioids, no placebo-controlled studies have assessed the direct effects of opioids combined with cannabis in humans or the impact of the combination on abuse liability. This double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject study determined if cannabis enhances the analgesic effects of low dose oxycodone using a validated experimental model of pain and its effects on abuse liability. Healthy cannabis smokers (N = 18) were administered oxycodone (0, 2.5, and 5.0 mg, PO) with smoked cannabis (0.0, 5.6% Δ9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]) and analgesia was assessed using the Cold-Pressor Test (CPT). Participants immersed their hand in cold water (4 °C); times to report pain (pain threshold) and withdraw the hand from the water (pain tolerance) were recorded. Abuse-related effects were measured and effects of oxycodone on cannabis self-administration were determined. Alone, 5.0 mg oxycodone increased pain threshold and tolerance (p ≤ 0.05). Although active cannabis and 2.5 mg oxycodone alone failed to elicit analgesia, combined they increased pain threshold and tolerance (p ≤ 0.05). Oxycodone did not increase subjective ratings associated with cannabis abuse, nor did it increase cannabis self-administration. However, the combination of 2.5 mg oxycodone and active cannabis produced small, yet significant, increases in oxycodone abuse liability (p ≤ 0.05). Cannabis enhances the analgesic effects of sub-threshold oxycodone, suggesting synergy, without increases in cannabis’s abuse liability. These findings support future research into the therapeutic use of opioid-cannabinoid combinations for pain.

 

For more information on this study, click here.

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