What is medical cannabis?
Often called marijuana, cannabis refers to the cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis sativa is a species of plant composed of several complex compounds, with the most notable compounds being Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).
Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain
Chronic pain affects approximately one in five people and is expected to increase to one in three people over the next two decades.
Patients suffering from chronic pain are often tasked with managing a multitude of physical, psychological and psychosocial factors that accompany their condition. Chronic pain is a commonly occurring symptom of a number of other conditions such as multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, fibromyalgia, and others. Patients suffering from chronic pain may experience a number of additional frequently occurring symptoms, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, headaches, muscle spasms, and disturbances in sleep, among others.
Cannabis has analgesic (pain reducing) and anti-inflammatory properties which may be used in the management of pain symptoms. Research on the analgesic properties of cannabis indicates that cannabis may produce a significant analgesic effect in patients suffering from chronic pain. In addition to reducing pain, clinical trial data also show that cannabis may potentially improve quality and duration of sleep, muscle stiffness and muscle spasticity.
A 2015 study assessing the safety and efficacy of cannabis found that the use of cannabis for the management of chronic, non-cancer, pain had relatively few non-serious Adverse Events (side effects) and did not increase the risk for serious Adverse Events. The study also found that there was a significant improvement in pain, quality of life and physical functioning observed in the group of patients using a standardized dose of cannabis throughout the trial.
Research on the efficacy and safety of cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain is an evolving field. Up-to-date research indicates that cannabis may be an appropriate treatment of patients suffering from chronic pain and associated symptoms.