Chronic pain patients who used cannabis saw sustained improvement in their condition over time, according to the results of a recently released study. An abstract of the research, “No pain, all gain? Interim analyses from a longitudinal, observational study examining the impact of medical cannabis treatment on chronic pain and related symptoms,” was posted online last month prior to publication by the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.
To complete the study, researchers working with the Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Boston evaluated the use of medical cannabis (MC) by chronic pain patients, most of whom had either musculoskeletal pain or neuropathy. Patients were evaluated for factors including pain, clinical state, sleep, quality of life, and conventional medication use before the onset of treatment, as well as after three and six months of using medical cannabis. The data revealed a sustained improvement in the participants’ symptoms.
“Relative to baseline, following 3 and 6 months of treatment, MC patients exhibited improvements in pain which were accompanied by improved sleep, mood, anxiety, and quality of life, and stable conventional medication use,” the researchers wrote. “Reduced pain was associated with improvements in aspects of mood and anxiety.”
Different Effects Noted For THC, CBD
The research also revealed potential differences in the effects of increased exposure to the cannabinoids THC and CBD on different symptoms experienced by the participants, writing that “findings highlight the potential efficacy of MC treatment for pain and underscore the unique impact of individual cannabinoids on specific aspects of pain and comorbid symptoms.”
“The results generally suggest increased THC exposure was related to pain-related improvement, while increased CBD exposure was related to improved mood,” they added.
In a statement about the research, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) notes that many of the study’s subjects reduced their use of opioids during the research period, although not to a statistically significant degree. The researchers wrote that their “findings are promising, as they underscore previous survey studies also reporting the reduced use of conventional medications, specifically opioids, following the initiation of MC treatment.”
More Research Needed For Chronic Pain
The researchers also studied patients with similar chronic pain conditions who did not use medical cannabis to treat their symptoms during the study period. Investigators wrote that data from those patients “did not reveal a similar pattern of improvement as the MC patients on measures of pain or clinical measures between baseline and follow-up.”
“Findings suggest that MC may be an effective adjunctive therapeutic strategy for chronic pain and related symptoms for at least a subset of patients,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion. “Future studies are needed to gather data which could ultimately help physicians make specific recommendations regarding MC treatment regimens optimized for pain relief.”
The release from NORML also noted that a separate study released earlier this year found that most patients in the United States seeking a recommendation to use medical cannabis are most likely to report suffering from chronic pain. That study was published in February by the Journal of Cannabis Research.