Pot For Pain: The Verdict Is In

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 28, 2011

    [Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s media advisories and legislative updates delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for ‘NORML News’ here.]

    Cannabis inhalation and the administration of cannabinoids are both associated with “significant analgesic effects” in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain, according to a systemic review of randomized controlled trials to be published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

    Investigators from the University of Toronto, Hospital for Sick Children, conducted a literature review regarding the efficacy of cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic pain, including neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and mixed chronic pain. Eighteen randomized controlled trials published between 2003 and 2010 involving a total of 766 participants met inclusion criteria. Four of the trials assessed inhaled cannabis, while other studies assessed the analgesic properties of either plant-derived cannabinoids or synthetic cannabinoids.

    “Overall the quality of trials was excellent,” authors wrote. “Fifteen of the eighteen trials that met inclusion criteria demonstrated a significant analgesic effect of cannabinoid as compared to placebo, several reported significant improvements in sleep. There were no serious adverse effects.”

    Researchers noted that all four trials involving inhaled cannabis “found a positive effect with no serious adverse side effects.” They added: “Of special importance is the fact that two of the trials examining smoked cannabis demonstrated a significant analgesic effect in HIV neuropathy, a type of pain that has been notoriously resistant to other treatments normally used for neuropathic pain. In the trial examining cannabis based medicines in rheumatoid arthritis a significant reduction in disease activity was also noted, this is consistent with pre-clinical work demonstrating that cannabinoids are anti-inflammatory.”

    Investigators concluded, “[C]annabinoids are a modestly effective and safe treatment option for chronic non-cancer (predominantly neuropathic) pain. Given the prevalence of chronic pain, its impact on function and the paucity of effective therapeutic interventions, additional treatment options are urgently needed. More large-scale trials of longer duration reporting on pain and level of function are required.”

    NORML has additional information on the analgesic properties of cannabinoids in its handbook, Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids, here.

    38 responses to “Pot For Pain: The Verdict Is In”

    1. When you’re young, you support medicinal marijuana because you like to smoke it. You know you’re getting old when you actually smoke it to live through pain 🙂

      All kidding aside, I recently recovered from surgery and it would have been hell without cannabis. Only once did I take one of the nauseating & dangerously addictive, yet completely legal painkillers subscribed to me. Instead I stayed comfortably in bed and smoked all natural, non-addictive (yet, still illegal) marijuana.

      All Americans that are sick and in pain deserve this option.

    2. katiespaw says:

      facts facts facts time and time again this information has been reported the powers that be pay no attn. when is it going to stop. when it is to late for another generation?

    3. fishcreekbob says:

      Pot for pain Hell I could have told you that.

    4. Pain-fully Stressed says:

      ok, so now what? its amazing news, but now what?

    5. True American says:


      Marijuana has never been furhter away than it is right now from being legalized. The main reason? The medical marijuana community…ironic yes I hate to admit but none-the-less true. That community has shown the corporate suits at the Pharm companies that there is mucho grande $$$$ to be made. As seen here in a recent post the THC in the plant has been reduced to Sched 3 while the plant itself remains a Sched 1. This allows the Pharm companies to legally do research while keeping the plant out of the public hands. Things being the way they are today with the relative inactivity of the public in the political arena I dont see the legalization of marijuana anytime soon; but I do see the mass exploitation of the plant into a product.

      BTW: Hope Im wrong about this…..Meh

    6. Marika says:

      I am very happy to hear about these trials. They aren’t telling me anything I don’t already know, I have been using cannabis for neuropathic pain for years. Also for help with anti-inflammation. Now we just have to convince the lawmakers!

    7. 3141 - Brethren of the Genesist Faith. says:

      Well! will wonders never cease to amaze me. At my next CDXX Communion – I will pray for the misguided souls of those [complete and total idiots] that take pride in being a prohibitionist. If anyone ever needed a prayer it’s surely them. I hope they have good enough sense to repent for their evil transgressions. On the other hand – when I think of all of my brethren that have suffered so much at their hands – 15,000 abandoned mines in the state of Nevada immediately comes to mind – but then – that thought puts me on their level. Shame on me!

    8. Nick says:

      The verdict was in a long time ago. Most people don’t realize that there are very few options for moderately severe and severe pain; having a chronic disease, I know. Other than medications derived from opium, there are almost zero safe and reliable options. Those who cannot use opiates for one reason or another (i.e. allergic reaction, side effects, history of opiate dependence, etc) need to have an alternative readily available.

    9. a quiet man says:

      well the next step should be Educate the rest of the people who do not know any of this .
      politicians that rant about how dangerous cannabis is should be the first target then the rabid media who support them could do with a little education if this story had said cannabis was bad you can be sure it would be on the 24 hr news over and over because it says its a good medicine nobody will hear about this report other than those that already know the truth

    10. Bill says:

      I got hit by a car last month and came out with some bruises and cartilage damage and pain in my knee, ankle and wrist. It was hard to walk around and I could barely write with a pen.

      I could have gotten opiates for the pain, but I’m a student. I can’t take opiates every day and make it through classes! First of all, I wouldn’t go. Second, if I did go, I wouldn’t stay awake!

      Fortunately, I can use cannabis, the fast acting, long lasting, pain reliever that makes you feel great without feeling stupefied. With cannabis to relieve my pain, I can happily pay attention, study, take tests, wake up early, and do everything I need to do.

      With such awesome benefits, does anyone wonder why people flout the law? I’m not taking their poison pills. No one else should have to either unless they want them.