McMaster University-led study shows some pain relief from use of medical cannabis

A 184-acre farm in Simcoe, Ontario is Canada's first cannabis producer permitted to sell at the farm gate. Thrive / Twitter

Some people living with chronic pain may find some relief from using cannabis and have minimal side effects, according to an international study led by McMaster University scientists.

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Data from 32 randomized controlled trials shows the use of non-inhaled medical cannabis, as opposed to a placebo, resulted in small improvements in pain relief.

It also showed small benefits in physical functioning and sleep.

There were minor side effects reported, including dizziness, drowsiness, impaired attention and nausea.

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“There are a lot of harms that people talk about with cannabis, such as early-onset psychosis affecting teens and adults, or becoming addicted, but this evidence has been based on recreational cannabis use,” said senior author Jason Busse, associate director of McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and associate professor of anesthesia.

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He added that given the close balance between benefits and harms, an associated guideline made a weak recommendation to consider a trial of medical cannabis for people living with chronic pain in whom standard care was not sufficient.

“Future research should compare long-term and serious harms of medical cannabis with other management options for chronic pain, including opioids,” said Busse.

Both studies were published in The British Medical Journal.

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