Using Marijuana to Manage Pain: New Study Shows It’s An Effective Treatment

People increasingly are turning to marijuana to manage pain. Recent research from McLean Hospital in Boston and Harvard University indicates they may be onto something, reporting that long-term use of medical cannabis proved effective to manage pain among a group of patients.

The study reported on research involving 37 patients who used cannabis to treat pain for six months. The conditions causing pain included arthritis, joint pain and neuropathy. They used cannabis through smoking, vaping, oils and edibles.

All the test subjects had either never used marijuana or had not used it for at least one year. The patients reported not only a reduction in pain, but also lower anxiety and improved sleep, mood, and quality of life.

What’s more, their use of opioids declined 13 percent after three months and 23 percent after six months. That mirrored other studies that have found lower use of prescription painkillers in places where marijuana is legal.

Most People Use Medical Marijuana to Manage Pain

While medical marijuana is approved to treat a variety of conditions, managing pain is the top reason people use it.

A study involving data from patients in 36 states and the District of Columbia looked at the qualifying conditions for using medical marijuana. A majority of patients listed chronic pain – about 65 percent of all patients. Also, 84.6 percent reported either “substantial or conclusive evidence of therapeutic efficacy.”

That’s what has made the Harvard study, published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, so important. Most people have an interest in medical marijuana, at least initially, to treat chronic pain.

There are also plenty of people experiencing pain. A 2021 study, also from Harvard, reported that 50.2 million adults in the United States reported experiencing pain on most days or every day. They also reported limits in daily function, including social activities and common activities in daily living.

Other Studies Have Also Shown Marijuana Manages Pain

The Harvard study involving the 37 patients has been seen immediately as a step forward in marijuana research. The researchers wrote that “this naturalistic study of medical cannabis patients with chronic pain provides preliminary evidence that ‘real world’ MC treatment may be a viable alternative or adjunctive treatment for at least some individuals with chronic pain.”

While cannabis users, including sports figures, have advocated using marijuana to manage pain for years, studies on the issue have just started. However, the Harvard study findings to match those from some previous research.

For example, a 2020 study found that marijuana works well in managing the pain from migraines. Seniors also have reported experiencing relief using marijuana to treat back pain and other issues.

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