Scientists from Oregon Health & Science University found that evidence behind the effectiveness of cannabis-related products to treat chronic pain is surprisingly thin.
The research is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and was conducted by Marian S. McDonagh et al.
In the study, researchers searched more than 3,000 studies in the scientific literature as of January of this year and landed on a total of 25 with scientifically valid evidence—18 randomized controlled studies and seven studies of at least four weeks.
They did find evidence to support a short-term benefit in treating neuropathic pain—caused by damage to peripheral nerves, such as diabetic neuropathy resulting in pain described as burning and tingling.
Two FDA-approved synthetic products with 100% tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC: dronabinol (under the trade name Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet) could help reduce the pain temporarily.
Both products also lead to notable side effects including sedation and dizziness.
Another product, a sublingual spray of equal parts THC and cannabidiol, or CBD, extracted from the cannabis plant, known as nabiximols, also showed evidence of some clinical benefit for neuropathic pain.
But this product also led to side effects, such as nausea, sedation, and dizziness.
In general, there is a limited amount of evidence about the pain-reliever effect of cannabis products.
Voters in Oregon, Washington, and 20 other states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, however, the researchers found many of the products now available at U.S. dispensaries have not been well studied.
The team says cannabis products vary quite a bit in terms of their chemical composition, and this could have important effects in terms of benefits and harm to patients.
That makes it tough for patients and clinicians since the evidence for one cannabis-based product may not be the same for another.
If you care about cannabis, please read studies about cannabis use linked to heart attack risk, and scientists make weak recommendations for medical cannabis for chronic pain.
For more information about pain, please see recent studies about an effective way to reduce back pain, and results showing why cholesterol-lowering drugs can cause muscle pain.
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