Although proponents say cannabidiol (CBD) offers many benefits, its most common use is pain management. Scientists have yet to clinically prove CBD’s pain-relieving properties. A new study shows that while CBD may help people deal with pain, this is at least partly due to a placebo effect. A small study by researchers at Syracuse University suggests that the placebo effect may play a role in the ability of cannabidiol (CBD) to provide relief from chronic pain.
In some cases, participants were told they were given CBD when they actually received a placebo and vice versa. In another randomized, double-blind trial studying the efficacy of CBD in the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, researchers went so far as to include and account for placebo effects in their hypothesis. It approved Epidiolex, a purified CBD extract, to treat rare seizure disorders in patients aged 2 years and older after three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials with 516 patients showed that the drug, taken along with other medications, helped reduce seizures. In this study, people who received active CBD with the expectation that they were receiving CBD reported having a higher pain threshold and tolerance than those who received active CBD but believed they were receiving a placebo.
CBD has been shown to work in certain conditions better than placebo, which is why prescription forms of CBD such as Epidiolex are available for the treatment of epilepsy. In one study, researchers gave 60 people a placebo, the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam (sold under the brand name Klonopin), or one of three doses of CBD (100 mg, 300 mg, or 900 mg) before a public speaking test. The researchers concluded that the CBD-treated mice experienced less fear than those given the placebo, despite this truly frightening scenario. However, a double-blind study found that healthy volunteers given CBD experienced little or no change in their emotional reaction to unpleasant images or words, compared to the placebo group.
They then fed them CBD or a placebo every day for a week, and measured how quickly the bugs withdrew their legs when exposed to heat or pressure, compared to how they reacted before their respective surgeries or injections. Participants who received CBD also reported lower levels of drug cravings and anxiety relative to the placebo group, and Hurd notes that the beneficial effects persisted for a week after the last CBD administration. What this means in relation to CBD is that, interestingly, the placebo and nocebo effects seem to be associated with the same endogenous dopaminergic and opioid pathways, but in opposite ways. So far, there have been no randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trials (the gold standard) on sleep disorders and CBD.
Many of the clinical studies related to CBD research include a placebo group to measure the efficacy of CBD. However, many scientists find it hard to believe that cannabis, hemp, and in particular cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) can do so much, and often attribute the results to a placebo effect.