A new study in mice found that a novel CBD-derived molecule may be even more effective than pure CBD in providing pain relief and helping patients with opioid use disorder.
Despite its addictive properties and high rates of misuse, prescription opioids remain one of the most common treatment options – a key driver of the ongoing opioid overdose crisis in the U.S. Researchers have been exploring more effective and safer alternatives such as CBD for patients in need of pain management.
CBD-Analog More Effective Than Pure CBD for Mice in Pain
The study led by the senior investigator and assistant professor of pharmacology, Sara Jane Ward, found that KLS-13019 worked “as well as, if not better” than CBD in reversing pain sensitivity.
In Ward’s study, mice with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathic pain (CIPN) were given CBD, KLS-13019, or the opioid, morphine, through an injection.
CIPN is a common side effect of cancer treatments and creates pain, numbness, and weakness in humans, which can be somewhat similar to other forms of chronic pain.
Both CBD and KLS-13019 outperformed morphine in reducing sensitivity to pain and pressure. Researchers also found CBD and KLS-13019 effective when taken orally.
“In a mouse model … we’ve been able to show for the first time that KLS-13019 works as well as, if not better than, CBD in preventing the development of neuropathy and reversing pain sensitivity after pain has been established,” Ward said.
But unlike CBD, KLS-13019 was also found to reverse some of the cell damage caused by the chemotherapy.
In a separate experiment, KLS-13019 was also slightly more effective than CBD in helping mice tolerate pain caused by proximity to a hot plate, suggesting that the drug can likely work for a wide range of pain.
CBD-Analog Also Effective in Reducing Opioid Cravings
To make KLS-13019 an even more promising drug, Ward’s team also found it helped mice reduce their dependence on opioids.
While opioids are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for pain treatment, it’s addictive properties often lead to misuse or abuse. An estimated 16 million individuals worldwide have experienced opioid use disorder.
A 2015 review of 38 separate research studies estimated that up to 29% of individuals with chronic pain were misusing prescribed opioids and up to 11% develop an addiction.
“Many patients who use opioids for pain management enter a cycle of reinforcement, where each use of opioids trigger reward pathways and perceived pain relief, leading to addiction,” Ward said.
Likewise, no studies have yet shown that prescription opioids are even effective at controlling pain or improving the quality of life for chronic pain patients over the long term.
With the new CBD-derived drug, Ward’s study found it significantly reduced opioid-seeking behaviors in addicted mice. Suggesting that it may also be helpful in reducing opioid cravings in humans – something not seen with CBD.
“This tells us that KLS-13019 has benefits beyond its ability to alleviate pain,” Ward said.
Ward’s team now hopes to test how well KLS-13019 performs in treating other types of chronic pain as well as investigate just how exactly KLS-13019 reduces opioid cravings and exerts its pain-relieving properties.
Calvin Chan is a researcher and medical writer from Edmonton, Canada. As a big science nerd, he loves reading and writing about everything science - from cannabis to dark matter and even alien life. Calvin has a PhD from the University of Alberta.