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No Strong Evidence That Medical Marijuana Reduces Chronic Pain: Study

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Just last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, a marijuana-based drug used for treating children who suffer from severe epilepsy and seizures.

While a handful of studies also highlighted the potential benefits of cannabis for different types of chronic pain striking millions around the world, a massive new investigation contradicted past research and found no strong evidence that cannabis can reduce chronic pain.

According to the four-year study, which is among the longest in-depth analysis delving on opioids and chronic non-cancer pain, people with persistent non-cancer pain and used medical marijuana experienced no improvement in their pain scores compared with those who did not.

Study Findings

In the study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the authors from University of New South Wales enlisted participants through community pharmacies and had them complete assessments of their pain, physical and mental health, and cannabis and medication use. About 80 percent of the sample accomplished each assessment.

The participants, in pain for a median of 10 years, took prescribed opioids for pain for four years on average, and had high rates of physical and mental issues were surveyed about a number of factors, pain scores, pain self-efficacy, or a person’s perceived ability to function while in pain, and previous and current cannabis use.

The analysis showed that subjects who used cannabis at any frequency level had greater pain and anxiety, less coping with the pain, and had worse pain interference in their lives. Their results were held against people who didn’t use cannabis at the second, third, and fourth years.

“Chronic non-cancer pain is a complex problem. For most people, there is unlikely to be a single effective treatment,” lead author Dr. Gabrielle Campbell said in a statement.

The findings were published in the journal Lancet Public Health.

Medical Marijuana: Clamor And Concerns

Medical cannabis is used for a range of different health conditions. The recently approved Epidiolex, for instance, contains a purified form of cannabidiol or CBD, a chemical compound in cannabis that doesn’t induce addiction. It is used for treating or controlling epilepsy symptoms in children.

Others, however, were worried about how the drug’s approval would potentially curtail access to other cannabis products. Epidiolex manufacturer GW Pharmaceuticals had been accused of attempting to restrict access to non-FDA approved CBD-based products.

Opioid Crisis

Current figures showed that more people and young individuals for that matter are dying of opioids. In 2016, one in every five deaths was from an opioid overdose, a number that’s higher than the rate 15 years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts also cautioned against the unrestrained use of opioid prescriptions in light of this crisis in the United States.

Jeffrey Samet, of Boston Medical Center, recommended a greater focus on the dose, duration, and formulation of these prescriptions, and suggested putting addiction treatment into the mainstream.

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