Cannabis for Chronic Pain In U.S. Medical States


According to a study entitled "Prevalence of Chronic Pain Among Adults in the United States" that was published in the journal Pain and that relied upon data from the National Health Interview Survey, more than 50 million adults—or 21 percent of the population—experience pain "on most days or every day." The influential survey noted that the most common pain locations are the back, hip, knee, and foot and that the most frequently used management strategies are physical therapy and massage.


The design of the current scientific investigation was that of a cross-sectional study that "surveyed a representative sample of adults aged 18 years or older with chronic pain who lived in the 36 states (and Washington, D.C.) with active medical cannabis programs".


The majority of the respondents (nearly 70 percent) reported having never used cannabis to manage their pain. Of those who said they had used medical marijuana to treat their pain, more than half said that their use of pot "led them to decrease the use of prescription opioid, prescription non-opioid, and over-the-counter pain medications." Less than one percent of study participants reported that cannabis use increased their use of such medications.


The study's authors concluded that, in U.S. states featuring medical cannabis laws, about one-third of adults have used marijuana to manage their (non-cancer) pain at some point. "Most persons who used cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain reported substituting cannabis in place of other pain medications, including prescription opioids," reported the researchers.


The study noted the "high degrees of substitution" of cannabis for opioid and non-opioid treatments and concluded that this represents the importance of research designed "to clarify the effectiveness and potential adverse consequences of cannabis for chronic pain."


The scientists noted that their results illustrate that state medical cannabis laws have enabled access to cannabis as an analgesic (pain killer) for tens of millions of Americans, despite "knowledge gaps in use as a medical treatment for pain.


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