Another study has linked medical marijuana use to lower pain levels and reduced dependence on opioids and other prescription medications.
Researchers at the University of Florida carried out a three-month pilot study to assess the efficacy of cannabis among middle-aged and older chronic pain patients.
One month after the participants initiated medical marijuana use, they completed surveys detailing the benefits and side effects of the alternative treatment option.
The study, published this month in the journal Cannabis, found that “most participants perceived medical cannabis to be overall effective for chronic pain management.”
The benefits that they reported include reduced pain and anxiety, improved physical and mental functioning, better sleep quality and mood and less reliance on prescription medications, including opioids and benzodiazepines.
“Participants reported improved physical and mental functioning and reduced use of pain and psychiatric medications.”
One 51-year-old patient reported that medical cannabis treatment is “pretty damn effective.”
“I’m no longer using my walker. I only take my meds [opioid/pain medication] one time a day instead of three, and I haven’t had a Xanax in 30 days,” she said.
Others said that they’ve been able to use cannabis as a complete substitute for certain prescription drugs.
“It’s great. I’ve never used medical cannabis before,” a 43 year old woman said. “With pain, I haven’t had to take any medication and I’ve been taking medication for years. All those narcotics and other meds. I was surprised, I didn’t know it was going to help me like that. It really works.”
Patients said that the primary challenges of using marijuana for pain were difficulty finding an effective product or dose and side effects like an “undesired high,” “stomach issues” and the limited “threshold of pain” that cannabis could treat.
“Common benefits included reduced pain intensity, anxiety, and dependency on pain and psychiatric medications. Improvements in physical functioning, sleep quality, and mood were reported.”
“This study provided preliminary findings that contribute to an improved understanding of individual experiences using medical cannabis for chronic pain management,” the authors said. “The open-ended interview highlighted information from patient perspectives which may guide future investigations with the longer-term goal of optimizing patient care.”
“Although improvements in pain management, sleep quality, physical and mental health were observed, identifying potential side effects, and determining optimal treatment regimens were reported as important,” they said. “Randomized control trials and longer-term prospective studies would provide needed information regarding safety and dosing to promote public safety and to keep up with the increasing interest in medical cannabis as a medication for the treatment of chronic pain.”
This is one of the latest studies in a growing volume of scientific research showing the therapeutic efficacy of cannabis for pain.
For example, a study published by the American Medical Association (AMA) in February found that chronic pain patients who received medical marijuana for longer than a month saw significant reductions in prescribed opioids.
AMA also released research showing that about one in three chronic pain patients report using cannabis as a treatment option, and most of that group has used cannabis as a substitute for other pain medications, including opioids.
State-level marijuana legalization is associated with major reductions in prescribing of the opioid codeine specifically, too, according to a study that leveraged data from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
A study that was released last year similarly found that giving people legal access to medical cannabis can help patients reduce their use of opioid painkillers, or cease use altogether, without compromising quality of life.
There’s no deficit of anecdotal reports, data-based studies and observational analyses that have signaled that some people use cannabis as an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical drugs like opioid-based painkillers and sleep medications.