Study: Cannabis Associated with Sustained Improvements in Chronic Pain Patients

Belmont, MA: The long-term use of cannabis provides sustained improvements in patients suffering from chronic pain conditions, according to longitudinal data published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.

A team of investigators affiliated with Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Boston evaluated the use of cannabis in chronic pain patients over a six-month period. Most participants in the study suffered from either musculoskeletal pain or neuropathy. 

Researchers reported: “Relative to baseline, following 3 and 6 months of treatment, MC [medical cannabis] patients exhibited improvements in pain which were accompanied by improved sleep, mood, anxiety, and quality of life. … Reduced pain was associated with improvements in aspects of mood and anxiety.”

Authors also acknowledged 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.”

Additionally, researchers reported that patients with similar pain conditions who did not initiate medical cannabis therapy over the study period “did not reveal a similar pattern of improvement as the MC patients on measures of pain or clinical measures between baseline and follow-up.” 

Authors concluded: “Findings suggest that MC may be an effective adjunctive therapeutic strategy for chronic pain and related symptoms for at least a subset of patients. Future studies are needed to gather data which could ultimately help physicians make specific recommendations regarding MC treatment regimens optimized for pain relief.”

Patients in the United States seeking medical cannabis recommendations are most likely to report suffering from chronic pain, according to an analysis published in February in the Journal of Cannabis Research

Full text of the study, “No pain, all gain? Interim analysis from a longitudinal, observational study examining the impact of medical cannabis treatment on chronic pain and related symptoms,” appears in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Additional information regarding cannabinoids and chronic pain is available from NORML.