Study Confirms Marijuana’s Popularity as a Pain Medicine
Anyone who follows medical cannabis news recognizes the fact that chronic pain is the most often cited complaint among medical cannabis patients. Anecdotally, we have long known that chronic pain patients find relief through marijuana. Now, a recently released study proves its popularity as a pain medicine.
Researchers from John Hopkins and the University of Michigan surveyed 1,661 adults living with chronic pain. The participants all lived in states with legal medical cannabis grams. As per patient reports, 26% acknowledged relying on cannabis to manage their pain. Each one had used cannabis at least once in the previous year.
A Universal Qualifying Condition
Medical cannabis dispensaries across the country sell medical cannabis products to chronic pain patients. At Pure Utah, one of more than a dozen Utah dispensaries, chronic pain patients are as common as in any other state. In essence, chronic pain seems to be a universal qualifying condition in every state with legal medical cannabis.
This should be no surprise to people who follow a medical cannabis industry. Chronic pain, PTSD, and seizure disorders are the most often cited conditions when medical cannabis proponents are looking to get a proposition on the ballot in a given state.
Furthermore, pain is difficult to quantify. It is not as easy to measure as heart rate or blood pressure. In fact, doctors must rely on patient reports to determine the existence of pain and its severity. If a patient claims to have been suffering from chronic pain for years, a doctor is in no position to refute such claims.
Marijuana and Opioid Use
Getting back to the study, half of the respondents who acknowledged treating their pain with cannabis also said they reduced their use of prescription opioids. They also utilized fewer non-opioid prescription medicines and OTC painkillers.
Likewise, 39% reduced participation in physical therapy as a result of using cannabis. Some 19% said they meditated less often while 26% participated in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) less often. Whether or not a reduction in physical therapy, meditation, and CBT is a good thing depends on your perspective.
The three therapies seem to reduce the need for pain medication altogether. So if chronic pain patients choose medical cannabis over said therapies, perhaps that’s not a good thing. The other half of that equation is the fact that 24% of the cannabis users reported more meditation and 26% utilized CBT more frequently.
What It All Means
Researchers learned additional things this post will not get into. Rather, let us wrap up by discussing what it all means. The long and short of it is that chronic pain patients are relying on cannabis to feel better. They are using it to alleviate their pain. Isn’t that the whole point?
It is easy to approach the medical cannabis question from a legal perspective. It’s easy to bring up the fact that research proving marijuana’s efficacy as a pain treatment is limited. But none of that changes the fact that chronic pain patients say marijuana works.
Despite their highly addictive nature, doctors prescribe opioids because they provide the pain relief patients are after. We do not question that. We don’t question whether opioids actually work. We believe they do and act accordingly.
We should not act any differently toward medical cannabis. If chronic pain patients report significant relief after using cannabis, they should be afforded the ability to keep using it. To suspect marijuana’s efficacy when we do not question other pain-relieving drugs is to question the truthfulness of chronic pain patients who would otherwise be left taking medications they don’t want.