Promising Benefits of Medical Cannabis: Easing Cancer Pain and Reducing Opioid Dependency

Study results reveal that medical cannabis can effectively ease cancer pain while decreasing total number of medications and opioids taken for relief.

According to data analysis, products with equal amounts of CBD and THC appear particularly effective.

Researchers conclude that medical cannabis offers a safe treatment option when conventional medications cannot help ease cancer pain.

More than half of anticancer treatment patients and two thirds of those living with terminal or advanced disease experience pain during treatment.

Opioids combined with anticonvulsant and anti-inflammatory medication are often prescribed for the relief of pain.

But one in three individuals still experience pain despite taking opioids; moreover, opioids may cause side effects such as respiratory depression, constipation, sleepiness and nausea.

Researchers therefore sought to assess whether medical cannabis could effectively and safely ease cancer pain while decreasing opioids and medication consumption.

Over three and a half years, 358 individuals with cancer who submitted information to a multicenter registry were studied for their response to treatment.

Average Age was 57; nearly Half were male; most commonly diagnosed cancer types included Bowel, Breast and Genitourinary cancers. Pain was the leading symptom that led to medical cannabis prescription.

THC:CBD balanced products were approved in 38%, 16.5% and 24.5% of individuals respectively; orally consuming it was most often suggested as the way forward.

Every three months for one year, monitoring took place of all medications taken, symptoms experienced, pain intensity levels and daily consumption of morphine.

On a sliding scale from 0-10, intensity was evaluated as no pain to severe pain, while relief ranged from no relief at 0% to complete relief at 100%; additionally two summary overall measures and measures of interference over 24 hours were also used to evaluate severity and relief levels.

Medical cannabis appeared to be well tolerated and safe, with 11 individuals experiencing 15 moderate to severe side effects that were considered minor; three reported experiencing sleepiness while two experienced fatigue.

Two serious side effects associated with medical cannabis were unlikely to have been caused by it; five individuals stopped using medical cannabis due to side effects.

This study’s exceptionally positive safety profile of medical cannabis may be attributable in part to its close supervision by healthcare experts who authorized and monitored treatment plans in this study.

At three, six, and nine months post-operatively, statistically significant decreases were noted for overall pain severity, average and worst pain intensity levels, and interference to daily life activities.

THC:CBD products were found to offer superior pain relief when compared with either CBD-dominant or THC-dominant ones.

At subsequent three-monthly checkups, there was also a marked reduction in total medication used and specifically opioid usage compared with that seen at initial check-ups.

This observational study cannot establish causation. Furthermore, many individuals were lost within 12 months, as data regarding other prescribed medications were limited to discontinuations or addition.

However, these data indicate medical cannabis’s role as a safe and complementary treatment solution in providing pain relief when conventional analgesics such as opioids fail.