Is Cannabis Safe for Chronic Pain Patients?

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Cannabis appears mostly safe for treating chronic pain, at least among patients with some experience using the drug, a new study suggests.
Cannabis appears mostly safe for treating chronic pain, at least among patients with some experience using the drug, a new study suggests.

HealthDay News -- Cannabis appears mostly safe for treating chronic pain, at least among patients with some experience using the drug, a new study suggests. The findings were reported online in The Journal of Pain.

Mark Ware, MBBS, director of clinical research for the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at McGill University Health Center in Montreal, and colleagues followed 215 adult patients with chronic pain who used medical cannabis for one year. 

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The researchers compared the cannabis users to a control group of 216 chronic pain patients who didn't use cannabis. The study involved seven pain treatment centers across Canada. The participants using cannabis were given leaf marijuana containing 12.5% tetrahydrocannabinol from hospital pharmacies, Ware said, and it could be smoked, eaten, or inhaled.

There was no difference in serious side effects between the two groups, the researchers found. Cannabis users did have a 73% increased risk of minor side effects.

"Quality-controlled herbal cannabis, when used by cannabis-experienced patients as part of a monitored treatment program over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile," the authors concluded. "Longer term monitoring for functional outcomes is needed."

Reference

1. Ware M, Wang T, Shapiro S, Collet J. Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study (COMPASS). The Journal of Pain. 2015. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2015.07.014.

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