Many users report immediate pain relief from using medical cannabis, but now a recently published study suggests chronic pain patients can find longer-term success using the drug.
The research by Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core collaborators at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Boston, was published in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. It observed 37 patients with chronic pain who were evaluated prior to initiation of medicinal cannabis treatment and then 3 and 6 months down the road.
Analyses of the patients, many of whom had musculoskeletal pain or neuropathy, included their pain levels, clinical state, sleep, quality of life, and conventional medication use. It found a sustained improvement in the participants’ symptoms.
“Relative to baseline, following 3 and 6 months of treatment, MC patients exhibited improvements in pain which were accompanied by improved sleep, mood, anxiety, and quality of life, and stable conventional medication use,” the researchers wrote.“Reduced pain was associated with improvements in aspects of mood and anxiety.”
The authors also found that many subjects reduced their use of opioids over the trial period, though not to a degree that reached statistical significance. They concluded, “[These] findings are promising, as they underscore previous survey studies also reporting the reduced use of conventional medications, specifically opioids, following the initiation of MC treatment.”
Alongside this study, the researchers also studied a pilot group of nine patients with similar chronic pain conditions who did not use medical cannabis to treat their symptoms during the study period. Data from those patients “did not reveal a similar pattern of improvement as the medical cannabis patients on measures of pain or clinical measures between baseline and follow-up,” the researcher wrote.
Interestingly, the research also found different effects of different cannabinoids, with the results suggesting increased THC exposure was related to pain-related improvement, while increased CBD exposure was related to improved mood.
“[These] findings highlight the potential efficacy of MC treatment for pain and underscore the unique impact of individual cannabinoids on specific aspects of pain and comorbid symptoms,” the researchers concluded.