Study reveals almost one-third of chronic pain patients use cannabis to help manage their symptoms.
Source: University of Michigan
As more U.S. states legalize cannabis (also known as marijuana) for medical and recreational use, increasing numbers of people are experimenting with it for pain relief.
According to a new study published in JAMA Network Open, almost a third of patients with chronic pain reported using cannabis to manage it.
More than half of the 1,724 adults surveyed reported that using cannabis led them to decrease the use of pain medications, including prescription opioids and over-the-counter analgesics.
Cannabis also effected the use of other non-drug related pain relief methods to various degrees: some people indicated that cannabis led them to turn less often to techniques that many clinical guidelines recommend as first-line therapies such as physical therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, while others with chronic pain increased their use of such treatments.
“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., Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Co-Director of the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network.
Use of cannabis and other pain treatments among adults with chronic pain in US states with medical cannabis programs
Most states have enacted laws allowing individuals to treat chronic pain with cannabis. Evidence is mixed about whether medical cannabis serves as a substitute for prescription opioids or other pain treatments. Accurate estimates of cannabis use or its substitution in place of pain treatments among adults with chronic noncancer pain are, to our knowledge, not available.
In this cross-sectional study, we surveyed a representative sample of adults aged 18 years or older with chronic pain who lived in the 36 states (and Washington, DC) with active medical cannabis programs in March to April 2022. We fielded the survey using the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) AmeriSpeak panel. This probability-based panel includes about 54 000 members and is sourced from a sample covering 96% of US households with a recruitment rate of 34%. We defined chronic noncancer pain using the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) criterion of pain unrelated to cancer on most days or every day in the past 6 months. The survey was conducted from March 3, 2022, to April 11, 2022. A screener survey consented and identified people with chronic pain (response rate: 75.4%), who were invited to complete the full survey.