Cannabis and its active constituents appear to be safe and modestly effective treatments in patients suffering from a variety of chronic pain conditions, including neuropathy (pain due to nerve damage), according to a literature review to be published in The Clinical Journal of Pain.
An investigator from New York University, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, conducted a PubMed search to survey the percentage of positive and negative published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing cannabinoids as treatments for pain. Of the 56 hits generated, 38 published RCTs met inclusion criteria. Of these, “71 percent (27) concluded that cannabinoids had empirically demonstrable and statistically significant pain relieving effects, whereas 29 percent (11) did not.”
Cannabinoids appeared to be most effective in treating hard-to-treat neuropathic pain conditions. “[F]or notoriously difficult to treat conditions such as HIV neuropathy, … cannabinergic pain medicines, particularly inhaled cannabinoid botanicals, are one of the only treatments that have been shown to be safe and effective with the highest levels of evidence,” the review states.
Five to ten percent of the US population is estimated to suffer from neuropathic pain at some point during their lives.
The study concludes, “Overall, based on the existing clinical trials database, cannabinergic pain medicines have been shown to be modestly effective and safe treatments in patients with a variety of chronic pain conditions. … Incorporating cannabinergic medicine topics into pain medicine education seems warranted and continuing clinical research and empiric treatment trials are appropriate.”
A separate paper, published in January in the Harm Reduction Journal, concluded: “Prescribing cannabis in place of opioids for neuropathic pain may reduce the morbidity and mortality rates associated with prescription pain medications and may be an effective harm reduction strategy.”
Full text of the study, “Cannabinergic pain medicine: A concise clinical primer and survey of randomized controlled trial results,” will appear in The Clinical Journal of Pain.