Researchers at Syracuse University recently conducted a study to determine the mechanisms behind CBD’s ability to reduce pain, as well as the impact the placebo effect may have on pain outcomes.
“For science and the public at large the question remained, is the pain relief that CBD users claim to experience due to pharmacological effects or placebo effects,” says study co-author Martin De Vita, a researcher in the psychology department in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. “That’s a fair question because we know that simply telling someone that a substance has the ability to relieve their pain can actually cause robust changes in their pain sensitivity. These are called expectancy effects.”
Using sophisticated equipment that safely induces experimental heat pain, De Vita and the other researchers were able to measure how the recipient’s nervous system reacts and responds to pain. “Then we administer a drug, like pure CBD or a placebo, and then reassess their pain responses and see how they change based on which substance was administered,” says De Vita.
Some participants were told they received CBD when they actually received a placebo, while some were told they would be getting a placebo when they actually got CBD.
According to De Vita, “We hypothesized that we would primarily detect expectancy-induced placebo analgesia (pain relief). What we found, though, after measuring several different pain outcomes, is that it’s actually a little bit of both. That is, we found improvements in pain measures caused by the pharmacological effects of CBD and the psychological effects of just expecting that they had gotten CBD. It was pretty remarkable and surprising.”