Medical cannabis for chronic pain: can it make a difference in pain management?

J Anesth. 2020 Feb;34(1):95-103. doi: 10.1007/s00540-019-02680-y. Epub 2019 Sep 18.


Globally, chronic pain is a major therapeutic challenge and affects more than 15% of the population. As patients with painful terminal diseases may face unbearable pain, there is a need for more potent analgesics. Although opioid-based therapeutic agents received attention to manage severe pain, their adverse drug effects and mortality rate associated with opioids overdose are the major concerns. Evidences from clinical trials showed therapeutic benefits of cannabis, especially delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinoids reduced neuropathic pain intensity in various conditions. Also, there are reports on using combination cannabinoid therapies for chronic pain management. The association of cannabis dependence and addiction has been discussed much and the reports mentioned that it can be comparatively lower than other substances such as nicotine and alcohol. More countries have decided to legalise the medicinal use of cannabis and marijuana. Healthcare professionals should keep themselves updated with the changing state of medical cannabis and its applications. The pharmacokinetics and safety of medical cannabis need to be studied by conducting clinical research. The complex and variable chemically active contents of herbal cannabis and methodological limitations in the administration of cannabis to study participants, make the clinical research difficult.

Keywords: Addiction; Chronic pain; Dependence; Medical cannabis; Regulations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids* / adverse effects
  • Cannabis*
  • Chronic Pain* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana* / adverse effects
  • Pain Management


  • Cannabinoids
  • Medical Marijuana