Cannabis Terpenes Alleviate Chemo-Induced Neuropathic Pain, Study Shows Added Benefits With Morphine And Reduced Addiction Risk

Zinger Key Points
  • Terpenes from Cannabis sativa are as effective as morphine in reducing chronic neuropathic pain, found an Arizona Health Sciences study. .
  • When combined with morphine, the pain relief was significantly enhanced for all combinations and without negative side effects.

A recent University of Arizona Health Sciences study has found that terpenes from Cannabis sativa are as effective as morphine in reducing chronic neuropathic pain, with the added benefit of enhancing pain relief when used together with morphine and without negative side effects.

Historically, the Cannabis sativa plant’s primary cannabinoids, THC and CBD, have shown moderate effectiveness in managing chronic pain but often come with psychoactive side effects.

In contrast, terpenes — aromatic compounds that provide plants with their distinct smells and flavors — offer a pain relief alternative without these adverse effects, as noted in the study published in the May edition of the journal PAIN.

Dr. John Streicher, lead researcher and professor of pharmacology at the College of Medicine in Tucson, along with his team at the Comprehensive Center for Pain & Addiction has been exploring the potential of terpenes in managing chronic pain.

"What we found is that terpenes are really good at relieving a specific type of chronic pain with side effects that are low and manageable," Streicher said in a press release shared with Benzinga.

His team investigated five terpenes found in high levels in the cannabis plant: alpha-humulene, beta-caryophyllene, beta-pinene, geraniol and linalool. They discovered that these terpenes could mimic the effects of cannabinoids in reducing pain sensation in animal models.

Cannabis Vs Morphine Or Cannabis And Morphine?

In their study, they used a mouse model to test the effects of these terpenes on chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain. The study’s findings were striking. Individually, each terpene was as effective or more effective than morphine in reducing pain. When combined with morphine, the pain relief was significantly enhanced for all combinations.

Despite these promising results, Streicher cautioned that effective pain relief does not necessarily equate to good therapy, given the severe side effects associated with opioids, such as addiction and respiratory depression. Their research further evaluated the potential for addiction and aversive behaviors linked to terpenes, finding none of the terpenes exhibited reward liability, making them a low addiction risk. Some terpenes also did not induce aversive behaviors, indicating their potential as effective therapeutic agents without distressing side effects.

The study explored various methods of terpene administration, including injection, oral dosing, and inhalation of vaporized pure terpenes. Surprisingly, oral and inhaled methods significantly reduced or nullified the effects, contradicting common anecdotal reports and practices of vaping or smoking terpenes as part of cannabis extracts.

"This brings up the idea that you could have a combination therapy, an opioid with a high level of terpene, that could actually make the pain relief better while blocking the addiction potential of opioids," Streicher said. "That's what we are looking at now."

Now Read: Huge Study Reveals Cannabis Provides Similar Pain Relief Benefits As Opioids Without Negative Consequences

Photo: Courtesy of amedeoemaja on Shutterstock

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