Cannabis and Pain: A Clinical Review

Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017 May 1;2(1):96-104. doi: 10.1089/can.2017.0017. eCollection 2017.


Introduction: Cannabis has been used for medical purposes across the world for centuries. As states and countries implement medical and recreational cannabis policies, increasing numbers of people are using cannabis pharmacotherapy for pain. There is a theoretical rationale for cannabis' efficacy for pain management, although the subjective pain relief from cannabis may not match objective measurements of analgesia. As more patients turn to cannabis for pain relief, there is a need for additional scientific evidence to evaluate this increase. Materials and Methods: Research for this review was performed in the PubMed/National Library of Medicine database. Discussion: Preclinical studies demonstrate a narrow therapeutic window for cannabis as pharmacotherapy for pain; the body of clinical evidence for this indication is not as extensive. A recent meta-analysis of clinical trials of cannabis and cannabinoids for pain found modest evidence supporting the use of cannabinoid pharmacotherapy for pain. Recent epidemiological studies have provided initial evidence for a possible reduction in opioid pharmacotherapy for pain as a result of increased implementation of medical cannabis regimens. Conclusion: With increased use of medical cannabis as pharmacotherapy for pain comes a need for comprehensive risk-benefit discussions that take into account cannabis' significant possible side effects. As cannabis use increases in the context of medical and recreational cannabis policies, additional research to support or refute the current evidence base is essential to attempt to answer the questions that so many healthcare professionals and patients are asking.

Keywords: THC; anandamide; cannabidiol; cannabinoids; endocannabinoid; pain.

Publication types

  • Review