A new study reveals a significant proportion of Americans are trialing cannabis for chronic pain relief.
According to the USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20.4% of adults had chronic pain in 2019. 7.4% had chronic pain that frequently limited life or work activities during the previous 3 months. It’s a serious issue both in terms of personal and wider impact. Addressing chronic pain has its own set of problems, such as potential addiction to opioid pain relief medications.
But many Americans are looking at alternatives. According to a new study, almost a third of patients with chronic pain in states with medical cannabis laws reported using it as a pain management strategy.
Published in JAMA Network Open, the study also revealed more than 50% of the 1,724 adults surveyed said the use of cannabis reduced their consumption of pain medications, including prescription opioids and over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics. Less than 1% reported use of cannabis increased their use of these medications.
While very encouraging, the use of cannabis for pain management isn’t entirely without risk.
“Our results suggest that state cannabis laws have enabled access to cannabis as an analgesic treatment despite knowledge gaps in use as a medical treatment for pain,” says the study.
And some also turned away from clinically recommended therapies such as physical and cognitive behavioral therapy.
“The fact that patients report substituting cannabis for pain medications so much underscores the need for research on the benefits and risk of using cannabis for chronic pain,” said Mark Bicket, M.D., Ph.D., who was lead author of the study, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at University of Michigan and Co-Director of the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network.
Where it is a qualifying condition for acceptance into state medical cannabis programs, chronic pain is often one of the most prevalent among registered patients.
Here in Australia, it appears the majority of patients use cannabis medicinally (via legal and illicit channels) for pain, anxiety or sleep disorders. Pain is the leading condition, at 52% for legally prescribed medications. This was revealed as part of the CAMS20 Survey.