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Cannabis hype control

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

A review of cannabis-for-pain studies by Gedin et al found that “placebo contributes significantly to pain reduction” … with not so much contribution from the cannabis itself.

Translation: THC is not the active ingredient for what little pain relief there is to be had.

Interestingly, they reported that study results hyped by the media are the most likely to be the most illusory — the most attributable to placebo — probably because of poor blinding.

Blinding or masking is all about keeping study subjects from knowing if they are getting a sham as members of the control group, or getting “the good stuff.” (If you hide their status from the researchers too, that’s double blinded.) Blinding is a key feature of a fair test, but full of gotchas, and “some placebo-controlled cannabis trials fail to ensure correct blinding which may have led to an overestimation of the effectiveness of medical cannabis.” There are many ways to botch blinding, but one of the main ones here is that — shocker! — it turns out people can tell the difference between real and fake marijuana! 🤣

The authors explain their work for a general audience quite nicely in this short article. See also my full cannabis-for-pain article, which provides some information about risks and harms that you’ll have a hard time learning about anywhere else.

If you have an impulse to say “I’ll take a good placebo,” remember that placebo is just as over-hyped as cannabis.

PainSci Member Login » Submit your email to unlock member content. If you can’t remember/access your registration email, please contact me. ~ Paul Ingraham, PainSci Publisher