Thirty-one percent of adults with chronic pain in states with legal medical cannabis say they use cannabis to manage their pain, according to a study published January 6 in JAMA Network Open. The study included a representative sample of adults aged 18 or older with chronic pain who lived in the 36 states with active medical cannabis programs and Washington, D.C. from March to April 2022.
Mark C. Bicket, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor, and colleagues used data from the National Opinion Research Center AmeriSpeak panel to assess cannabis use among 1,661 adults with chronic pain in those states and found three in 10 adults used cannabis to manage their pain, with 25.9% reporting using cannabis to manage their chronic pain in the previous 12 months and 23.2% saying they used cannabis in the previous 30 days to manage their pain.
The study found that more than half of adults who used cannabis to manage their chronic pain reported using cannabis led them to decrease their use of prescription opioids, prescription nonopioids, and over-the-counter pain medications. Less than 1% reported that using cannabis increased their use of these medications.
“The high degree of substitution of cannabis with both opioid and nonopioid treatment emphasizes the importance of research to clarify the effectiveness and potential adverse consequences of cannabis for chronic pain,” the authors wrote. “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.”
The study was conducted with a grant from the federal National Institute on Drug Abuse.
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