Results of a study released this week show that nearly one in three people are using medicinal cannabis to mitigate long-term pain, and many are substituting opioid-based pain medicines for it.
Published in the journal JAMA Network, the data was obtained by questioning a number of participants who all lived with chronic pain and lived in states which allowed access to medical cannabis. The surveys were completed between March and April 2022.
Participants were asked to complete a survey designed by researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Public Health in Baltimore, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
The data that was compiled from the responses showed that 21% of the participants were already on a medical cannabis program, and overall 31% of the total participants were using cannabis to treat their chronic pain symptoms.
Over half of the participants revealed that cannabis had resulted in them decreasing their use of opioid medicine that was prescribed to treat chronic pain.
Speaking in NORML, their Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Cannabis has established efficacy in the treatment of multiple conditions, including chronic pain, and it possesses a safety profile that is either comparable or superior to other controlled substances. So it is no wonder that those with legal access to it are substituting cannabis in lieu of other, potentially less effective and more harmful substances. As legal access continues to expand, one would expect the cannabis substitution effect to grow even more pronounced in the future.”
Chronic pain is defined as a condition that is ‘long-standing’ and persists beyond the usual recovery time. It can also occur due to health conditions such as fibromyalgia or arthritis. Sometimes it may be experienced by patients who have no history of injury or illness. All chronic pain should be investigated by a medical professional, and treated.
Cannabis is a plant that contains over 500 unique compounds, the main compounds are cannabinoids, flavonoids and cannabinoids. CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory, and THC is known by many people for producing the ‘high’ effect, they are both cannabinoids and are known to have analgesic effects.
The ratios of these compounds are thought to be important when targeting certain illnesses or pains, and cannabis medicine can be administered in many forms. Some medicines include all of the compounds found within the plant and are often referred to as full-spectrum. Other cannabis medicines include compounds that have been extracted from the plant and added to other substances such as oil.
It is not known exactly how cannabis helps treat pain, there are 100s of cannabis studies being published every month by researchers, and definitive answers are still a long way off.
However, scientists believe cannabis works on pain from different angles, such as; cannabinoids work with the body’s ECS (endocannabinoid system) to reduce inflammation, the release of the phytocannabinoid anandamide helps to block pain signals, and other ways such as by providing a better night’s sleep which can help the body cope with pain more easily and allow it to better fight off disease and infection.
Cannabis science is still in its infancy, and there is still a lot to understand and discover about this complex plant and how it can be beneficial to humans, animals and to our environment. Building on the results of studies such as this pain study will help broaden the spectrum of knowledge and help scientists advance medicine to the next chapter.