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Medicinal Cannabis Research Wrap - 23rd Sept

Effectiveness of CBD tested on stressed elephants at Warsaw Zoo

Elephants are considered one of the most intelligent creatures on this planet. After the death of a herd elder at Warsaw Zoo, zookeepers noticed a behavioural change in one of the herds other elephants; Fredzia. The head of the zoo’s animal rehabilitation department said that “Fredzia reacted strangely” when she saw the body of her lifeless friend. They went on to say that “you could see she was also grieving; she was also depressed”. Elephants are known to exhibit behavioural changes when the structure of a group changes.

The Guardian reports (1) that on the back of this, researchers at Warsaw zoo have launched a study investigating whether CBD oil could reduce the anxiety in the zoo’s animals. CBD is known to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine, both chemicals in the brain that can reduce the effects of depression. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid from the cannabis plant and the animals are not expected to have any psychoactive reaction from this treatment.

The trial is currently in very early stages. It involves measuring cortisol levels in the animals both before and during treatment. Cortisol is produced in mammals as a stress response so levels of cortisol in an animal’s blood can be directly related to the levels of stress they are experiencing. The researchers in this trial are not expecting the animals to experience any significant negative side effects. The study is not expected to be completed for another 2 years however the results from this could have an impact on how we look at managing the emotional needs of our pets and other animals.


Pain tolerance of regular cannabis users

One of the most well-known medical uses for cannabis is for the treatment of chronic pain. A common alternative to cannabis for this treatment is opioids. Both animal and clinical studies have shown that long term use of opioids leads to an increased sensitivity to pain. This is one of the big issues that surround the use of opioids, as over time this increased sensitivity requires higher and higher doses of opioids to treat the same pain.

Researchers from UBC Okanagan have recently published a study(2) that investigates whether cannabis increases pain sensitivity in a similar manner to opioids after long term use. The study compared the pain sensitivity of 40 regular users against 40 non-users. Pain sensitivity was self-recorded against several different criteria. Participants were instructed to refrain from both alcohol and other pain medications for the duration of the trial.

The results showed that frequent cannabis use did not have any effect on a patient’s pain sensitivity. Both users and non-users in the trial showed similar results in regard to both pain sensitivity and pain intensity. This result is a positive finding in evaluating the relative harms and benefits of cannabis pain relief therapy.

2) St. Pierre, M., Russo, E. B., & Walsh, Z. (2020). No Evidence of Altered Reactivity to Experimentally Induced Pain Among Regular Cannabis Users. The Clinical Journal of Pain

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