Medical cannabis has been found to significantly improve physical and mental health in Australian adults suffering from chronic pain and other health issues, according to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open. The study surveyed over 3,100 participants, with chronic non-cancer pain being the most common condition reported (68.6%), followed by cancer pain (6%), insomnia (4.8%) and anxiety (4.2%).
Despite relatively stringent rules for medical cannabis in Australia, patients were able to access the drug after exhausting all other forms of treatment and consulting with a physician. Most of the prescriptions were for cannabis products taken orally, such as oils and capsules, with only a small number for dried cannabis flower. About 80% were rich in cannabidiol (CBD) and the rest were either dominant in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or a balanced mix of CBD and THC.
Patients were asked to rate their wellness and quality of life in eight categories on a scale of 0-100, and surveys were conducted at the start of the study and then every 45 days after cannabis therapy was initiated. An improvement was observed in all eight wellness categories, with an average decrease of 10-15 points on the 100-point scale in body pain. The study also showed “pronounced and statistically significant improvements” in mental, social, and emotional health.
Adverse effects such as sleepiness and dry mouth were common during cannabis therapy, however, they were usually mild or moderate. The study revealed that patients were previously taking an average of nearly five medications per day, the most common being simple analgesics, opioids, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and gabapentinoids, before cannabis therapy was initiated.
“This study suggests a favourable association between medical cannabis treatment and quality of life among patients with a diverse range of conditions. However, clinical evidence for cannabinoid efficacy remains limited, and further high-quality trials are required,” wrote lead author Thomas Arkell, PhD, a psychopharmacologist at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.
In conclusion, the study suggests the potential benefits of medical cannabis for chronic pain and other health issues, however, further research is needed to confirm these findings. Nonetheless, it is promising news for those seeking alternative ways to manage their conditions and improve their quality of life.