Researchers affiliated with the University of Haifa in Israel have reported on the efficacy of medical cannabis use for dealing with chronic pain.
Their analysis, published in European Journal of Pain showed that after one year, pain intensity had declined from baseline by 20 percent, while morphine equivalent daily dosage of opioids fell significantly by 42 percent.
1045 patients completed the initial questionnaire before starting medical cannabis treatment, and 551 completed the follow-up. The researchers checked in with users at one, three, six, nine, and twelve months to see how the patients were doing.
The participants were all prescribed cannabis by a doctor; in Israel, cannabis is available to patients who have a medical marijuana licence.
Studies have previously found that cannabis is good at relieving pain, but this one was unique in also identifying possible predictors for treatment success. Those who had a normal to long sleep pattern, who weighed less, and who had lower depression scores were those most likely to report a significant pain-relieving effect from use of cannabis.
In this study though, having nerve pain predicted a less favorable outcome. This contrasts with the common belief (and some research evidence) that cannabis is particularly good at targeting neuropathic pain.
The authors added that adverse effects were common but mostly not serious. However central nervous system related effects that impaired the ability to drive vehicles were among these side effects.
“This prospective study provides further evidence for the effects of medicinal cannabis on chronic pain and related symptoms, demonstrating an overall mild to modest long-term improvement of the tested measures and identifying possible predictors for treatment success,” the researchers commented.
They added that the findings provide physicians with new data to support decision making on recommendations for medical cannabis treatment.