For people with long term ongoing pain, medical cannabis is a valid option that could pave the way to reduced use of opioids according to a new study in the journal Pain Medicine.
Chronic pain is physically and mentally debilitating and affects approximately 50 million adults in America. Of this group, 40%, or 20 million, are affected by high-impact chronic pain that interferes with work or life most days or every day.
In the current longitudinal observational study, investigators from Allevio Pain Management, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Apollo Applied Research, in Ontario, Canada, recruited 751 pain patients from a clinic specializing in cannabis treatment. The study recruits were new patients at the clinic between October 2015 and March 2019. 60% of them reported never having previously used cannabis prior to their involvement in the study.
The researchers required the patients to complete standard pain surveys and also to record their use of opioid medication and adverse side effects as they began taking cannabis, and then every month thereafter, for a year.
The results showed that medical cannabis treatment was associated with statistically significant improvements in pain severity and quality of life after just one month, with the benefits maintained over the 12-month observation period.
After three months, patients had reduced their dosage of oral morphine, with further decreases being noted after six months. In addition, significant decreases in headaches, fatigue, anxiety and nausea were observed as the cannabis treatment progressed.
The authors conclude the study results “add to the cumulative evidence in support of plant-based medical cannabis as a safe and effective treatment option and potential opioid medication substitute... in chronic pain patients”.