A four year study of over 1,500 Australians prescribed opioids for non-cancer pain found that Cannabis use was common, with 24% having used cannabis for pain. The study was conducted by researchers at UNSW Sydney and published in the very reputable Lancet “Public Health” Journal, volume 3, July 2018. Over the four years participants were interviewed and completed questionnaires to see what impact the pain was having on their overall quality of life, medication and cannabis use.
At each assessment, participants who were using cannabis reported greater pain and anxiety, were coping less well with their pain, and reported that pain was interfering more in their life, compared to those not using cannabis. There was no clear evidence that cannabis led to reduced pain severity or pain interference or led participants to reduce their opioid use or dose.
The results add weight to the widely-expressed caution about the use of cannabis for pain relief purposes. Statements addressing these concerns are publicly available on the websites of the Australian Pain Society, and the Faculty of Pain Medicine. What we don’t want to see is a repeat of the problems that we now face with opioid prescribing which ultimately let patients in need down.