Study: Daily Cannabis Use For Chronic Pain Is Safe, Effective

Chronic pain patients who use herbal cannabis daily for one-year report reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and do not experience an increased risk of serious side effects, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Pain.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal assessed the long-term health of 216 medicinal cannabis users with chronic non-cancer pain who consumed a daily standardized dose (12.5 percent THC) of herbal cannabis compared to 215 controls (chronic pain suffers who did not use cannabis). Subjects in study were approved by Health Canada to legally use medicinal cannabis and consumed, on average, 2.5 grams of herb per day, typically via inhalation or vaporization.

Investigators reported that daily cannabis consumers possessed no greater risk than non-users to experience “serious adverse events.” Specifically, researchers identified no significant adverse changes in consumers’ cognitive skills, pulmonary function, or blood work following one-year of daily cannabis consumption. Medical cannabis consumers did report elevated risk of experiencing “non-serious adverse events” (e.g., cough, dizziness, paranoia) compared to controls; however, authors classified these to be “mild to moderate.”

Pain patients who used cannabis reported a reduced sense of pain compared to controls, as well as reduced anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

“Quality-controlled herbal cannabis, when used by cannabis-experienced patients as part of a monitored treatment program over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile,” authors concluded.

The study is one of the first to ever assess the long-term safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis. A prior health review of patients receiving medical cannabis monthly from the US federal government as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program similarly reported that cannabis possesses therapeutic efficacy and an acceptable side-effect profile.

Full text of the study, “Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study,” appears online here.

25 thoughts

  1. I have to say Paul, of all the journals you have so deligently catalogued for NORML, for evidence in court, or to excell scientific research, the Journal of Pain has to be my favorite. Im quite sure prohibition could fill many pages in that journal. ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep up the good work! Your diligent citations, links and library of evidence for the medicinal quality of marijuana has cast a disinfecting light on the evil forces of prohibition, and America continues to owe you a great debt of gratitude. Thank you!

    [Paul Armentano responds: Thanks Julian for reading. I also have a review of various new cannabis-centric scientific papers on Alternet today here:

  2. It seems to me that ever other day I’m reading another study that is confirming what many millions of people already know from personal use. It’s relatively safe, very effective, and renewable. At some point in the near future I hope in the USA and abroad our elected officials collectively manage to do something right for once, not for personal political gain, but for the people. Stop prosecuting people’s personal medical or recreational choices. It’s far past the time for change, to many lives have been ruined, careers tarnished, families broken and lives stolen.

    Norml keep up the great work!!!!!

  3. Yeah, but what about adverse effects from really, really long-term use? I’ve been smoking more or less regularly for about 50 years. I’ve lost hair, have wrinkles and sometimes my bones creak—all because of marijuana (how could it possibly be anything else?) …and at nowhere near 2.5 grams a day.

    So watch out, younger regular users. My horrible plight will be yours someday.

  4. First off, I find it very odd far passed coincidental that a post trying to recant the advocacy for the long term use of medical marijuana does so at 4:22pm not thinking ahead enough to start typing and reviewing a few minutes early… Furthermore, this person named Don E, makes every bit of his plight due to marijuana. More disturbingly is the fact that if this is not an attack on a harmless plant ( Don E does not have an agenda,) that intelligence has dwindled so profoundly that an individual is looking passed the 50 years of light use of marijuana caused all his suffering and not the fact that he would more than likely be in his 70’s, rather close to the average life span for a male… As you grow old you age, lose hair, gets wrinkles and sometimes bones creak or crack. As a personal trainer, smoke more smile more, love more. Stay active and prolong health and postpone the onset of osteoporosis and aging by correctly and regularly weight or resistance train with proper stretches (held for 20 to 30 seconds) in all ranges of motion. It is far too easy to blame all of ones setbacks and lack of happiness on something besides ones self. If this person took in 2.5 grams a day as part of a pain management program he would have a different outlook.

    1. Don E. was speaking facetiously (which you seem to have missed) – clearly his long term use hasn’t impacted HIS cognitive functions ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. I have Primary Erythromalgia, I am in pain daily to the point of awakening in the night crying for a mother long gone. Narcotics that I have been prescribed for over a decade are blocked and unavailable (when it suits the pharmacy), for no reason save they seem to want people who follow every law and have a Harvard and Stanford trained Dr., to suffer for 5 days to 2 weeks. This with insurance. I have been involved in Medical Marijuana since I voted for prop. 215 in 1996. Before knowing I would soon develop a chronic pain condition from a genetic mutation, not by my own hand, etc. I am in need of a very high dose edibles when this happens. Without them life is not worth living. The tragically sad thing is in 1996 a truly sick patient could get leaf for free. Now hi dose edibles made of leaf are 40 $ and up. I see this as a tragedy, regardless of the fact America is a Capital is nightmare, it is beyond my scope that one must suffer so. I am not alone. I am blessed to have access, I voted and fought for it by God. Just tired of leaf pretty rolls, and a non compassionate climate in San Francisco involving cannabis, life and death, pain and illness..not pot for pets, ?..don’t get me wrong..glad they have access as well. So, thank u for reading, glad we have it, love NORMAL..Please, if you are capable, suppose all I ask, is remember why this law was passed..Pain and HIV Patients, not just the almighty $. Best 2 u & yours.

  6. C’mon guys.Didn’t you get it? Don E. was being humorous and YOU missed the whole set-up.Can’t see the forest for the trees?HA.Stop being so self-righteous for gosh sakes.

  7. Im and old timer i have been smoking for 47 yrs this country has ruined allot of lives over cannabis its time to re elect our government with younger people that respect the rights of the people… and not big pharma tabbaco.alkyhole these products just kill people ..i have ostio diabetic etc..cannabis has worked for me better than opiates tylenol etc, this clown don e. is just another prohib trying ruin a good thing ..some day the people will wake up and take our country back ..we the people all need to get out and vote much greed out there thats what runs this country now,,, god said the root of all evil is money …well gotta go now ..thanks are doing a great job..////

  8. I think Don E. is really George Zimmer:
    “I’ve been smoking marijuana on a regular basis for about 50 years,” Zimmer told CNBC, before joking, “As you can see, it’s really impacted me in a negative way.”

  9. 2.5 grams is 100 single tokes (25 mg each) in a screened-quarter-inch-diameter-crater one-hitter. Or do those patients roll five (5) H(ot)B(urning)O(verdose)M(onoxide) Joaints?

  10. They are recommending 35 doses a day…since when is 35 doses a day “effective?”

    Also, my patients all uniformly demand that quantity no matter what their conditions are…and they always pick the most recreationally valuable stuff.

  11. The use of cannabis as medication has me 23 years past my dd. Doing this in the closet blessed me with six children and many more grandchildren. If anyone knows, it is because they ask how and stay for the answer. If physicians could figure out how to replace their cash cow known as big pharma, cannabis would be the base element in prescription medication instead of petrol-chemical byproducts.

  12. I’m able to run again because of medical cannabis. After developing bleeding ulcers from too many prescription anti-inflammatories I’m now pain free and running as well as I ever have after switching to cannabis. Oh yeah, no addiction to opiates either.

  13. I have had had eleven surgical procedures in my life. the first three I was young and took pain meds for discomfort. when I began consuming cannabis and had a procedure , I found I did not want to fill the prescription because they made me feel like total shit! so instead I tried using cannabis and found great benefit from it. sure their was discomfort but, my ability to tolerate it was much enhanced with cannabis. never filled another prescription after that! I swear by it and no one can ever tell me any different…..

  14. I too have suffered through multiple surgeries and follow up therapies that always include the use of opiates to help with the pain that always follows. I wish I could use some good smoke instead of those damned poison opiates. Is there any way to use marijuana instead of the same old crap that kills me slowly as has been proven? I want out of the opiate addiction that constantly fillows a surgery? Someone needs to help ….PLEASE???????

  15. As a veteran with several injuries when I visit my friends in a state where medical use is legal, I have no need for my pain meds from the VA for the month I am there

  16. I’ve been RX’d high doses of opiates for almost a decade for chronic pain, and it has worked very well overall. A year ago I discovered medical cannabis. I was able to reduce the amount of opiates, and felt better in every way: less pain, better mood, less sedation. And lesser physical dependence.

    My Kaiser Dr suddenly came up with a “pain contract” that prohibits use of “illegal drugs” including cannabis. I wasn’t too worried as medical cannabis is legal in our state, hardly an “illegal drug”. He said sorry he had to make me sign this, he didn’t believe in it, or urine testing. A few months later he said sorry, you have to submit to a urine screen. I asked about cannabis and he said that was definitely banned. It’s obvious that he knows nothing about it, and I can’t risk trying to inform him. I was able to stall long enough to pass, as I was vaping small amounts.

    But without the cannabis I had to return to higher opiate doses. I felt abused, treated like a criminal, I lost faith in my Dr. and sank into depression. I’m now afraid to use the cannabis that had worked such wonders, as I can’t risk being left with no meds. What’s next? I feel like a dog that’s been kicked and beaten.

  17. Good morning from here in Belgium. I use it. It has changed my life. Chronic pain, depression, huge emotional benefits. After being a cranky bitch for years because of chronic pain I am now me again. Being a title buzzed doesn’t hinder me in any way, and contrary to the myth of the slacker stoner, I get a lot more done and have more energy. I too have been given opiates and narcotics in the past. Jesus they used to have me on Tylenol at the highest “safe” dose. Tylenol can kill you if you overdose, they tried to tell me that at this “safe” dose I wouldn’t get any liver damage, ha, as if this dose won’t effect my health in the long run. And this is Tylenol, an over the counter med which HAS been used to successfully commit suicide.

    So awesome, but here I’m basically preaching to the choir. We need to get this message to the crazed anti-marijuana folks. How do we do that when so many of them refuse to even read the science behind it.

  18. I now use it I cook in honey a table spoon honey in tea. My quality of life had inproved. My pain the feeling I can’t describe and also my voice. The spasms in my the larynx are so much better. My Dr even says I’m getting around better. I also smoke it my bowels and I can burp. I feel some hope.

  19. There are several causes for chronic pain including wrong uses of cannabis.. but research says this can heal chronic pain problems, because of its therapeutic properties which depends on conditions of uses its combine therapy is safe and positive.

  20. Been smoking for 30 years. Started as recreational I’ll admit, but now with degenerative Disc disease in my lower back and neck and migraines, I’ve started to use it more fore pain relief and to help sleep than for recreation. Unfortunately, my source is still a back alley transaction where the quality is at best questionable, sometimes good, other times not so good.
    With medical grade cannibus the quality is regulated and controlled.
    The other problem I’ve had is to convince my Dr.s that this is even a viable treatment. His response when I brought it up during a visit was, if your opiat med isn’t working well enough, let’s increase the dosage. While this dose help to better manage the pain, I do have to admit, the fact that I no longer have any desire to eat and when I do it can take weeks for my system to move things through, as the new TV commercial shows for another drug for opiate induced constipation. I suffer with side effects of the pain patch I wear. His answer is add more prescription drugs. He still thinks what I’ll get is ditch weed, with no control on quality or % active THC or depending on the strain of Cannibus, “active” or “effective” part of the plant. Hopefully with a print out of this abstract and some other research I’ve done, I may be able to change his thinking.
    I have an appointment later today, so I’ll add a comment if I was successful or not at changing his mind.

Leave a Reply