Medical cannabis—or medical marijuana—may be safe and effective in moderate doses for people with chronic pain, according to a study published in The Journal of Pain.
The news may offer hope to the 100 million Americans who have chronic pain. Chronic pain is sometimes caused by conditions such as arthritis or multiple sclerosis, but the cause is often unknown, making symptoms more difficult to treat. Some chronic pain occurs alongside or as a result of psychological conditions, such as depression or posttraumatic stress.
Can Marijuana Treat Chronic Pain?
Concerns about the risks of treating people with cannabis may deter some doctors from recommending the drug, the study’s authors say. To test the safety and efficacy of cannabis, researchers followed 431 people with chronic pain for a year each between 2004 and 2008. The study involved patients at seven pain management centers across Canada.
A group of 215 participants used cannabis to treat their chronic non-cancer pain, while a control group of 216 participants abstained. The cannabis came from a licensed cannabis producer and was dispensed through the hospital pharmacy at each site. Researchers did not control the quantity participants used, but the average dose was 2.5 grams per day.quality of life. They also showed no serious adverse events compared to the control group. Contrary to previous research, which suggests marijuana may affect cognitive function, researchers found no precognitive differences between the two groups.
The Need for Future Research
Though cannabis users did not report more serious adverse reactions than non-users, they did report an increased number of minor adverse reactions, such as respiratory issues associated with smoking. The study did not target first-time cannabis users, so researchers did not test how new cannabis use might affect health. About 30% of participants dropped out before the study’s end, potentially altering results and creating a possible source of selection bias.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana.
- 23 legal medical marijuana states and DC. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881
- AAPM facts and figures on pain. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx
- Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma (1st ed.). New York, NY: Viking.
- Ware, M. A., Wang, T., Shapiro, S., and Collet, J. (2015). Cannabis for the management of pain: Assessment of safety study (COMPASS). The Journal of Pain. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2015.07.014
© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.