Toronto, Canada: The daily use of cannabis by patients with chronic pain conditions is associated with prolonged improvements in subjects’ symptom management and overall quality of life, as well as sustained reductions in their use of opioids, according to longitudinal data published in the journal Pain Medicine.

A team of Canadian researchers assessed the short-term and long-term impacts of medical cannabis treatment in 751 chronic pain subjects. Participants in the study consumed cannabis daily for a period of 12 months. Sixty percent of subjects reported having had no previous experience with cannabis prior to their involvement in the trial.

Investigators observed clinically significant improvements in patients’ pain severity “as early as one month after initiating treatment and [these improvements] were maintained over the course of the 12-month observation period.” In addition, patients’ “reported frequencies of fatigue, headaches, feelings of anxiety, and nausea decreased compared with baseline.”

Patients who were taking opioids prior to their enrollment in the study reduced their daily drug intake over the trial period – a finding that is consistent with those of other longitudinal studies, such as those here, here, and here. Investigators observed initial reductions in patients’ opioid consumption at three months. Patients further reduced their opioid intake at six months and again at twelve months.

Authors concluded, “Taken together, the results of this study add to the cumulative evidence in support of plant-based MC (medical cannabis) as a safe and effective treatment option and potential opioid substitute or augmentation therapy for the management of chronic pain symptomatology and quality of life.”

Full text of the study, “Medical cannabis for the management of pain and quality of life in chronic pain patients: A prospective observational study,” appears in Pain Medicine. Additional information is available in the NORML fact-sheet, “Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.”

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