Cannabis Use Rising Among Chronic Pain Patients

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The percentage of chronic pain patients using cannabis therapeutically is increasing, according to data published in the journal Advances in Therapy.

Investigators affiliated with Harvard Medical School assessed trends in cannabis use among pain patients in a nationally representative sample during the years 2011 to 2015.

Authors reported, “Over the course of our study, … we identified a significant and progressive increase in the number of patients using cannabis. In patients with chronic pain, cannabis use more than doubled during this period.”

They reported that the average age of chronic pain patients who consumed cannabis was 45 and that the majority of users were lower on the socioeconomic scale than were non-users.

They concluded: “This overall increase is not surprising given that several studies have shown cannabis to be effective in mitigating inflammation and demonstrated benefit to chronic pain symptoms with the use of cannabis, including improved pain, functional outcomes, and quality of life in patients with chronic pain syndromes. With chronic pain projected to increase over the next two decades to a rate of one in three people from the current rate of one in five people, our findings foretell that cannabis use can be projected to increase even more rapidly.”

Chronic pain is the most commonly reported qualifying condition among medical cannabis patients enrolled in state-specific access programs. A 2017 literature review by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults.” Numerous studies report that pain patients enrolled in medical cannabis access programs typically reduce or eliminate their use of opioids over time.

The abstract of the study, “Cannabis use in hospitalized patients with chronic pain,” appears online here. Additional information on cannabis and pain is available here.