Medical Cannabis Might not Help Most Patients with Chronic Pain


BY: Chronic Staff | Recent News | September 29, 2021


Medical cannabis is being used as therapy for those with chronic pain. However, as per the new clinical guidelines published in the journal BMJ, it is unlikely to benefit most.


The international group of researchers who outlined the clinical guidelines said that there is not enough evidence to prove that medical marijuana products help most patients dealing with chronic pain. The group analyzed 3 dozen medical cannabis studies before coming to this realization.


The lead author, Jason Busse, associate director of McMaster University’s Michael G. De Groote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research in Ontario said that upon looking at overall evidence for the therapeutic cannabis products, the benefits are quite modest.


Medical Marijuana has been legalized in 36 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Despite this fact, health care providers and patients have less guidance on the appropriate use for chronic pain. Therefore, Busse aimed at bridging the gap but there is a limited pool of studies that qualify for the criteria due to federal restrictions.


Due to limited data, it is not advised in the guideline to smoke or vape marijuana. It was also revealed that only a small percentage of participants have reported “important improvement” in chronic pain, physical function, or sleep quality while taking oral or topical cannabis treatments.


Therefore, Busse expects that the paper can help clear confusion on the use of medical marijuana as an analgesic. Patients have their own reasons for needing to try or otherwise from medical cannabis. Some people with chronic pain are willing to use medical marijuana to see for themselves whether they will get relief while other patients are fine managing their pain with standard care.


Whether a patient tries medical cannabis, there are many products to choose from, however, no concrete information on which components will be effective in the treatment of certain symptoms.


On the other hand, Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project agreed that the guidelines are helpful but could be more accurate if it includes inhaled cannabis. MPP advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana in the U.S. O’keefe added that there are many patients who use cannabis inhalation that get immediate, appropriately-dosed relief instead of the delayed effects that comes from edibles or other forms.


Busse emphasized that he wants to avoid “repeating history” referring to prescribing opioids for chronic pain but later on revealed that the benefits were less and harm was greater.


The guideline said that there is a need for additional research on medical cannabis.