Cannabis for Pain Reduction and the Discontinuation of Opioid Medications

Photo Credit: Steven Schwartz/Flickr 

Photo Credit: Steven Schwartz/Flickr 

A new study approved for publication in The Clinical Journal of Pain has found cannabis treatment may be able to produce long-term improvement in pain scores and reduced opioid consumption for those who suffer from treatment-resistant chronic pain. In the six month open-label study, participants added cannabis treatment to their existing medication regimens. Researchers then compared participant response surveys to assess the efficacy of medical cannabis on pain and other symptoms, and found that 66% of participants experienced pain reduction.

Some participants experienced moderate to severe adverse side effects, like sedation or difficulty concentrating, resulting in the discontinuation of cannabis treatment by nine participants. Two others discontinued cannabis therapy due to severe apparent adverse reactions, like elevated liver enzymes or confusion requiring hospitalization. While these effects shouldn't be taken lightly, the rate of these side effects is considered to be low, resulting in only 11 out of 206 participants who completed the survey. What's more important is that of the 73 participants who consumed opioids at the beginning of the study, 32 completely discontinued opioid use by their six-month followup.

This study is encouraging, but it should be noted that because it was open-label, both researchers and participants knew exactly what medication they were receiving, and therefore may have been biased as to the effects of their therapies. A similar controlled and double-blinded study should be conducted to verify these results. This information has been provided by JDSupra and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.