Cannabinoids in chronic pain and palliative care

Rev Bras Anestesiol. 2008 May-Jun;58(3):267-79. doi: 10.1590/s0034-70942008000300010.
[Article in English, Portuguese]


Background and objectives: Several studies have focused on Cannabis sativa (Cs) due to its analgesic potential and its ability to alleviate symptoms of disorders of the central nervous system. However, since marijuana, one of its popular names, is the most common illicit drug throughout the world, it breeds prejudice both among lay people and health care professionals. The objective of this study was to determine the current level of knowledge about this drug and the perspectives for its use, to better understand its actions and effects, both in experimental studies and clinical use, in patients with degenerative neurological disorders or in those who do not have the possibility of cure and are being followed by palliative care programs.

Contents: The therapeutic use of Cannabis sativa is not recent. The present study presents the historical background and pharmacology of Cs, the development of its therapeutic use through synthetic cannabinoids, the current scientific knowledge, and its organic and psychological consequences, demonstrating the options for its clinical use and future perspectives.

Conclusions: Pure delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta9-THC) and its analogues have clinical applicability, being beneficial in selected individuals. The development of pure synthetic substances, in an attempt to attenuate undesirable psychoactive effects, indicates that perspectives for its use in the future are favorable. More detailed studies should be undertaken. Ample debates will be necessary to create standards for its formulation and clinical availability, since it is a substance that generates prejudice, due to its illegal commercialization and use, and also because its use has been attributed to mysticism.

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Palliative Care*


  • Cannabinoids