Cannabis Effects on Chronic Pain

Cannabis Effects on Chronic Pain

We know that CBD has positive effects when treating anxiety and stress, but what about THC? It has long been suggested by the cannabis community that consuming cannabis has positive effects. Many people claim it helps with all sorts of things. Such as their productivity, mental health, and even physical health. Well now, there is scientific evidence to back it up. Investigators at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Boston led a study to demonstrate the cannabis effects on chronic pain. 

What they discovered is certainly interesting and may change the way some legislations treat medical cannabis in the future. 

Chronic Pain in the U.S.

According to a publication in 2018 by the CDC, chronic pain has been cited as one of the most common reasons why adults in the United States seek medical care. In this report, it states that in 2016, 50 million U.S. adults were experiencing some kind of chronic pain. And 8% of them experienced pain so bad it restricted and hindered at least one major life activity. 

Chronic pain is quite common and expensive to treat. It can also be challenging for some people who don’t have the best medical resources. 

Because of this, many people have turned to cannabis products as a form of alternative treatment to their chronic pain. Moreover, there is an increasing interest in the use of cannabis as a pain treatment. This is because it has the potential to reduce the opioid dosage in the medication for some patients. Ultimately, this can also lead to a decrease in opioid-related deaths. 

The Study 

The study was led by scientific teams from Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Boston. The study involved thirty-seven patients. All of them suffered from conditions, such as arthritis, joint pain, neuropathy and many other types of chronic pain conditions. 

They were all evaluated throughout a six-month period while they ingested cannabis products in the form of smoking, edibles, vaporizing, oils and other methods. Their cannabis doses were all regulated throughout the process. It’s important to note that all the patients were cannabis “naive”. This means that they had never used cannabis before or abstained from it for at least a year prior to the study. 

Simultaneously, there was a control group of 9 patients who would not be partaking in the cannabis process, but would also be evaluated. This allows for a comparison between those with and without cannabis, and can more clearly show the actual effects of cannabis on chronic pain. 

The Results 

After six months of daily treatment of cannabis, patients reported significant improvements with more than just pain. The cannabis treatment improved their pain, mood, anxiety, sleep, and overall quality of life. Additionally, the opioid medication use, which some patients had to take due to their condition, declined by an average of 13%. 

Unfortunately, the control group did not experience the same degree of improvements with their pain or other symptoms compared to their counterparts. 

Investigators also noted that many patients aimed to feel the alleviation of pain without the feeling of “intoxicating effects of THC”. It is likely that these patients who do not desire the experience of feeling high can continue to use cannabis in lower doses in order to treat their pain. 

What This Means 

This study of medical cannabis provides preliminary evidence that “real world” medical cannabis treatment is a viable alternative treatment for some individuals with chronic pain, explained Staci Gruber. Gruber, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She was also the head of the Marijuana Investigation for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program at McLean Hospital. 

Gruber continues on to say that the study demonstrated that individual cannabinoids exert unique effects. Therefore, more studies are required to best create cannabinoid-based treatments for pain. 

Other researchers say additional studies need to be done on how CBD and THC modulate pain and other symptoms. 

Although the findings from this research seem to suggest positive cannabis effects on chronic pain, not everyone agrees. 

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) and the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthesits are two professional pain societies. They’ve both released statements declaring that they could not endorse the use of cannabis to treat pain. They say it is due to the fact that there are no large, high-quality, unbiased clinical trials of cannabis as an analgesic. 

Hopefully, there are more studies into the exact science as to why and how cannabis affects and helps treat chronic pain. This may lead to legislative change and allow for the use of medical cannabis treatment nationwide.

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