A new study published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care suggests that medical marijuana may not aid sleep problems resulting from chronic pain as successfully as once hoped due to the fact that frequent users could potentially build up a tolerance to the sleep-inducing effects of the marijuana over time.
Another recent study published in the same journal suggests that cannabinoids do not play a role in aiding cancer-related pain.
The first study assessed the sleep quality and pain scores of 128 patients treated in a specialist pain clinic to get a better idea of how chronic pain affects sleep in people over the age of 50 — explicitly looking into those individuals who have suffered for over at least a year.
The study noted that 66 of the patients used medicinal marijuana to aid and manage their sleep, while 62 patients sought other methods. The marijuana users reported having used the drug for an average of 4 years, with an average consumption of 31 grams a month.
With factors like average pain scores, age of the patient, gender of the patient, and the use of other sleep aids and antidepressants considered, cannabis users were overall less likely to wake up during the middle of the night than the non-users. However, there was no difference between both groups in the areas of waking up early and in duration of time it took to fall asleep.
Further, the study found that frequency of use was connected to greater difficulty falling asleep over time. "This may signal the development of tolerance," suggest the researchers that oversaw this study, while still awknowledging the individual situations of these frequent users, like greater overall pain or higher anxiety, etc.
"These findings have large public health impacts considering the aging of the population, the relatively high prevalence of sleep problems in this population, along with the increasing use of medicinal cannabis," reserchers explain.
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The second study addressed the effectiveness of cannabis in treating cancer-related pain. To successfully do this, researchers collected data from five different studies involving 1442 people. Their analysis of these five studies showed that the changes in average pain intensity scores were the same between those patients taking cannabinoids and those patients given a placebo.