Study: Daily Cannabis Use For Chronic Pain Is Safe, Effective

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 21, 2015

    Chronic pain patients who use herbal cannabis daily for one-year report reduced discomfort and increased quality of life compared to controls, and do not experience an increased risk of serious side effects, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Pain.

    Researchers at McGill University in Montreal assessed the long-term health of 216 medicinal cannabis users with chronic non-cancer pain who consumed a daily standardized dose (12.5 percent THC) of herbal cannabis compared to 215 controls (chronic pain suffers who did not use cannabis). Subjects in study were approved by Health Canada to legally use medicinal cannabis and consumed, on average, 2.5 grams of herb per day, typically via inhalation or vaporization.

    Investigators reported that daily cannabis consumers possessed no greater risk than non-users to experience “serious adverse events.” Specifically, researchers identified no significant adverse changes in consumers’ cognitive skills, pulmonary function, or blood work following one-year of daily cannabis consumption. Medical cannabis consumers did report elevated risk of experiencing “non-serious adverse events” (e.g., cough, dizziness, paranoia) compared to controls; however, authors classified these to be “mild to moderate.”

    Pain patients who used cannabis reported a reduced sense of pain compared to controls, as well as reduced anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

    “Quality-controlled herbal cannabis, when used by cannabis-experienced patients as part of a monitored treatment program over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile,” authors concluded.

    The study is one of the first to ever assess the long-term safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis. A prior health review of patients receiving medical cannabis monthly from the US federal government as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program similarly reported that cannabis possesses therapeutic efficacy and an acceptable side-effect profile.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study,” appears online here.

    25 responses to “Study: Daily Cannabis Use For Chronic Pain Is Safe, Effective”

    1. Julian says:

      I have to say Paul, of all the journals you have so deligently catalogued for NORML, for evidence in court, or to excell scientific research, the Journal of Pain has to be my favorite. Im quite sure prohibition could fill many pages in that journal. 🙂 Keep up the good work! Your diligent citations, links and library of evidence for the medicinal quality of marijuana has cast a disinfecting light on the evil forces of prohibition, and America continues to owe you a great debt of gratitude. Thank you!

      [Paul Armentano responds: Thanks Julian for reading. I also have a review of various new cannabis-centric scientific papers on Alternet today here: http://www.alternet.org/drugs/latest-cannabis-science-you-need-know.%5D

    2. The aparent outsider says:

      It seems to me that ever other day I’m reading another study that is confirming what many millions of people already know from personal use. It’s relatively safe, very effective, and renewable. At some point in the near future I hope in the USA and abroad our elected officials collectively manage to do something right for once, not for personal political gain, but for the people. Stop prosecuting people’s personal medical or recreational choices. It’s far past the time for change, to many lives have been ruined, careers tarnished, families broken and lives stolen.

      Norml keep up the great work!!!!!

    3. Susan Bentley says:

      I have smoked for 30 years n if i didnt i wouldnt eat or sleep

    4. Don E. says:

      Yeah, but what about adverse effects from really, really long-term use? I’ve been smoking more or less regularly for about 50 years. I’ve lost hair, have wrinkles and sometimes my bones creak—all because of marijuana (how could it possibly be anything else?) …and at nowhere near 2.5 grams a day.

      So watch out, younger regular users. My horrible plight will be yours someday.

    5. Joe S says:

      First off, I find it very odd far passed coincidental that a post trying to recant the advocacy for the long term use of medical marijuana does so at 4:22pm not thinking ahead enough to start typing and reviewing a few minutes early… Furthermore, this person named Don E, makes every bit of his plight due to marijuana. More disturbingly is the fact that if this is not an attack on a harmless plant ( Don E does not have an agenda,) that intelligence has dwindled so profoundly that an individual is looking passed the 50 years of light use of marijuana caused all his suffering and not the fact that he would more than likely be in his 70’s, rather close to the average life span for a male… As you grow old you age, lose hair, gets wrinkles and sometimes bones creak or crack. As a personal trainer, smoke more smile more, love more. Stay active and prolong health and postpone the onset of osteoporosis and aging by correctly and regularly weight or resistance train with proper stretches (held for 20 to 30 seconds) in all ranges of motion. It is far too easy to blame all of ones setbacks and lack of happiness on something besides ones self. If this person took in 2.5 grams a day as part of a pain management program he would have a different outlook.

      • Hanapucanna says:

        Don E. was speaking facetiously (which you seem to have missed) – clearly his long term use hasn’t impacted HIS cognitive functions 😉

    6. g says:

      @Julian and Paul

      I second that motion.

    7. Jonny D says:

      I have Primary Erythromalgia, I am in pain daily to the point of awakening in the night crying for a mother long gone. Narcotics that I have been prescribed for over a decade are blocked and unavailable (when it suits the pharmacy), for no reason save they seem to want people who follow every law and have a Harvard and Stanford trained Dr., to suffer for 5 days to 2 weeks. This with insurance. I have been involved in Medical Marijuana since I voted for prop. 215 in 1996. Before knowing I would soon develop a chronic pain condition from a genetic mutation, not by my own hand, etc. I am in need of a very high dose edibles when this happens. Without them life is not worth living. The tragically sad thing is in 1996 a truly sick patient could get leaf for free. Now hi dose edibles made of leaf are 40 $ and up. I see this as a tragedy, regardless of the fact America is a Capital is nightmare, it is beyond my scope that one must suffer so. I am not alone. I am blessed to have access, I voted and fought for it by God. Just tired of leaf pretty rolls, and a non compassionate climate in San Francisco involving cannabis, life and death, pain and illness..not pot for pets, ?..don’t get me wrong..glad they have access as well. So, thank u for reading, glad we have it, love NORMAL..Please, if you are capable, suppose all I ask, is remember why this law was passed..Pain and HIV Patients, not just the almighty $. Best 2 u & yours.

    8. Johnbarnone says:

      C’mon guys.Didn’t you get it? Don E. was being humorous and YOU missed the whole set-up.Can’t see the forest for the trees?HA.Stop being so self-righteous for gosh sakes.

    9. mark..L.. says:

      Im and old timer i have been smoking for 47 yrs this country has ruined allot of lives over cannabis its time to re elect our government with younger people that respect the rights of the people… and not big pharma tabbaco.alkyhole these products just kill people ..i have ostio diabetic etc..cannabis has worked for me better than opiates tylenol etc, this clown don e. is just another prohib trying ruin a good thing ..some day the people will wake up and take our country back ..we the people all need to get out and vote ..to much greed out there thats what runs this country now,,, god said the root of all evil is money …well gotta go now ..thanks norml..you are doing a great job..////

    10. Todd says:

      I think Don E. is really George Zimmer:
      “I’ve been smoking marijuana on a regular basis for about 50 years,” Zimmer told CNBC, before joking, “As you can see, it’s really impacted me in a negative way.”