CannaTrials adheres to evidence-based medicine – making statements based on medical evidence.

This page is excerpted and quoted from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.    A Committee of over 40 experts, researchers, and reviewers in The Health and Medicine Division published a 486 page report in 2017 entitled “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.
If you would like to access the entire report you may do so by clicking this link.

Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain

Relief from chronic pain is by far the most common condition cited by patients for the medical use of cannabis. For example, Light et al. (2014) reported that 94 percent of Colorado medical marijuana ID cardholders indicated “severe pain” as a medical condition. Likewise, Ilgen et al. (2013) reported that 87 percent of participants in their study were seeking medical marijuana for pain relief. In addition, there is evidence that some individuals are replacing the use of conventional pain medications (e.g., opiates) with cannabis. For example, one recent study reported survey data from patrons of a Michigan medical marijuana dispensary suggesting that medical cannabis use in pain patients was associated with a 64 percent reduction in opioid use (Boehnke et al., 2016). Similarly, recent analyses of prescription data from Medicare Part D enrollees in states with medical access to cannabis suggest a significant reduction in the prescription of conventional pain medications (Bradford and Bradford, 2016). Combined with the survey data suggesting that pain is one of the primary reasons for the use of medical cannabis, these recent reports suggest that a number of pain patients are replacing the use of opioids with cannabis, despite the fact that cannabis has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chronic pain.

The majority of studies on pain cited in Whiting et al. (2015) evaluated nabiximols outside the United States. In their review, the committee found that only a handful of studies have evaluated the use of cannabis in the United States, and all of them evaluated cannabis in flower form provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that was either vaporized or smoked. In contrast, many of the cannabis products that are sold in state-regulated markets bear little resemblance to the products that are available for research at the federal level in the United States. For example, in 2015 between 498,170 and 721,599 units of medical and recreational cannabis edibles were sold per month in Colorado (Colorado DOR, 2016, p. 12). Pain patients also use topical forms (e.g., transdermal patches and creams). Thus, while the use of cannabis for the treatment of pain is supported by well-controlled clinical trials as reviewed above, very little is known about the efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States. Given the ubiquitous availability of cannabis products in much of the nation, more research is needed on the various forms, routes of administration, and combination of cannabinoids.

CONCLUSION 4-1 There is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults. [1]

[1] The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research | The National Academies Press. 2017. Pages 87-90. Download the complete 486 page report.

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