Researchers at Australia’s University of Sydney are conducting the world’s first medical trial researching the efficacy of CBD for spinal cord injury-induced chronic pain. The study is being conducted in partnership with the university’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics and was awarded AUD$1.7 million from NSW Health. 

In a press release announcing the study, the research team said that up to 80% of people with a spinal cord injury develop some degree of persistent pain. In a statement, Professor Luke Henderson, the study’s lead investigator from the university’s Brain and Mind Centre and the School of Medical Sciences, said that “Current treatment options for neuropathic pain are limited and often come with significant side effects that make the condition worse” which highlights “a need for new treatment options.”   

Professor Iain McGregor, from the Lambert Initiative and the study’s co-investigator, said that physicians in Australia are “increasingly prescribing cannabis-based products for neuropathic pain.” 

A study released last month by the National Drug Strategy Household Survey found 2.7% of Australia’s population took up cannabis for medical purposes in 2019. From 2016, when Australia first began allowing medical cannabis use, to 2019 there were 1,011 prescriptions issued for medical cannabis. Since 2020, those figures have increased to 295,515, according to the research. 

“If effective, this trial will provide gold-standard evidence to support the use of CBD for patients with neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury. It can also help to inform and ultimately change policy surrounding the prescription of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of neuropathic pain and improve patient access.” — McGregor in a statement 

The trial will be run at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) in Randwick, Sydney, a world-leading facility for brain imaging and spinal cord injury research. Participants will trial both CBD and a placebo in random order over two six-week periods and during each treatment period participants will be asked to rate their pain and wear a wrist-worn device to measure their sleep. Before and after each treatment period, participants will attend NeuRA to complete a brain scan, questionnaires, and blood collection. 

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