More and more people are using cannabis to manage a range of health issues and medical conditions. One of the most common conditions that people seek cannabis treatment for is chronic pain.
Chronic pain affects daily function and even causes lack of sleep. Aside from that, it causes financial strain.
According to the Americal Academy of Pain Medicine, around 55 million Americans suffer from pain associated with cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease, and around 100 million Americans experience chronic pain conditions not associated with these diseases. It is also estimated that the treatment of pain carries a financial strain on the economy of $550 billion up, yearly.
Needless to say, people would be willing to try non-conventional medication methods just to be free from pain.
At a time when clinical studies on medical cannabis are lacking, cannabis users would attest that the alternative medication has greatly relieved them of the pain they were experiencing. And many would simply take their word for it.
Given the hype around cannabis and its promise of potent medicinal benefits, a fast-growing number of people look to cannabis for that ever-elusive relief from pain.
But what if scientific research says otherwise?
Study says there is no evidence cannabis can help with chronic pain
A four-year study has found that medical cannabis does not effectively relieve chronic pain. This finding contradicts and challenges the previously known belief that cannabis has potent pain relieving property.
The Pain and Opioids In Treatment (POINT) study is one of the largest and one of the most in-depth studies ever done on the medical use of the drug. It was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and was led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. It was published in the Lancet Public Health journal.
It is said that one in five Australians suffer from daily prolonged pain, and many are stuck on opioids, which are an effective yet addictive and dangerous treatment. This is why a more effective yet less harmful and addictive alternative is always welcome. As such, the study is timely and relevant.
However, the study found that what gives chronic pain patients hope may not be an effective treatment after all.
The POINT study found no evidence to suggest that the use of medical marijuana reduced the severity of non-cancer pain, improved patient outcomes, or exerted an effect that would make it a better alternative to opioid.
According to the study’s lead author, Gabrielle Campbell, chronic pain not associated with cancer is a complex problem, and that for most, there is unlikely to be a single effective treatment.
She explained that in the study of people who are living with chronic non-cancer pain and who were prescribed pharmaceutical opioids, they found no strong evidence that using cannabis reduced their pain or their opioid use over time.
For four years, the researchers examined data from 1,514 patients who completed a baseline interview. Over a series of comprehensive assessments — including assessments of their pain, mental and physical health, medication, and cannabis use — the participants who were using medical cannabis reported that they were experiencing more pain and anxiety.
Participants had reported being in pain for a median of 10 years and have taken prescribed opioids to alleviate their pain for a median of four years. Among these participants, physical and mental health problems were in very high rates.
Results of the study suggest that caution is needed because a clear role for cannabis in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain wasn’t found.
Professor Michael Farrell, director of the NDARC and a senior author on the Lancet paper, said that they try to moderate expectations patients have around managing pain. According to him, there has been some media coverage that suggests cannabis is the answer, and patients who otherwise wouldn’t have considered going near illicit marijuana have been exploring it.
Farrell added that “the sell on the impact of cannabinoids has been a pretty hard sell and we need to approach it with caution.”