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2023 Study: Cannabis for Chronic Pain in Medical States

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A 2023 study entitled "Use of Cannabis and Other Pain Treatments Among Adults With Chronic Pain in US States With Medical Cannabis Programs" that was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal JAMA Network Open 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."

Woman scientist in front of high-end laboratory microscope.
Does cannabis treat pain?

"Most states have enacted laws allowing individuals to treat chronic pain with cannabis," reported the study. It noted that evidence is mixed concerning the issue of medical cannabis serving as as substitute for prescription opioids and other pain therapies. "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," wrote the scientists.


Half of the participants who used cannabis to manage chronic pain said it resulted in "decreased use of prescription opioids."

Roughly half of the study participants who used cannabis to manage their chronic pain said that it resulted in "decreased use of prescription opioid, prescription nonopioid, and over-the-counter pain medications." Only one percent of those surveyed reported that their opioid medication consumption increased after use of medical cannabis.

A pill bottle with large white pills.
Does cannabis reduce opioids?

Cannabis for Chronic Pain in Medical States Statistics

Cannabis for Chronic Pain in Medical States. The study revealed some insight about how chronic pain patients utilize medical cannabis for their condition. Among adults with chronic pain in this study:

  • 39 percent reported that their use of cannabis led to decreased use of physical therapy (six percent reported that it led to increased use).

  • 19 percent reported that it led to decreased use of meditation (24 percent reported that it led to increased use).

  • 26 percent reported that medical cannabis led to decreased used of cognitive behavioral therapy (17 percent reportehd tat it led to increased use).

The research revealed that about one-third of chronic pain patients in states with medical cannabis programs used cannabis for pain. Most of them substituted marijuana for "other pain medications, including prescription opioids."

Three young nurses examine their notes.
Understanding chronic pain patients

Cannabis for Chronic Pain in Medical States Conclusions

"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," concluded the study's authors. They disclosed that the limitations of their scientific investigation included "the possibility of sampling and self-reporting biases and changes in pain treatment from other factors (e.g. forced opioid tapering)."


View the original study.

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