The Place of Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Gynecological Pain

Drugs. 2023 Nov;83(17):1571-1579. doi: 10.1007/s40265-023-01951-z. Epub 2023 Oct 13.


Cannabis sativa (L), a plant with an extensive history of medicinal usage across numerous cultures, has received increased attention over recent years for its therapeutic potential for gynecological disorders such as endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain, and primary dysmenorrhea, due at least in part to shortcomings with current management options. Despite this growing interest, cannabis inhabits an unusual position in the modern medical pharmacopoeia, being a legal medicine, legal recreational drug, and an illicit drug, depending on jurisdiction. To date, the majority of studies investigating cannabis use have found that most people are using illicit cannabis, with numerous obstacles to medical cannabis adoption having been identified, including outdated drug-driving laws, workplace drug testing policies, the cost of quality-assured medical cannabis products, a lack of cannabis education for healthcare professionals, and significant and persistent stigma. Although currently lacking robust clinical trial data, a growing evidence base of retrospective data, cohort studies, and surveys does support potential use in gynecological pain conditions, with most evidence focusing on endometriosis. Cannabis consumers report substantial reductions in pelvic pain, as well as common comorbid symptoms such as gastrointestinal disturbances, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and poor sleep. Substitution effects were reported, with >50% reduction or cessation in opioid and/or non-opioid analgesics being the most common. However, a substantial minority report not disclosing cannabis consumption to their health professional. Therefore, while such deprescribing trends are potentially beneficial, the importance of medical supervision during this process is paramount given the possibility for withdrawal symptoms.

Plain language summary

Cannabis, whether purchased illicitly, or obtained through legal means, is commonly used by those with chronic pelvic pain, especially people with endometriosis. People report several benefits from using cannabis, including being able to reduce their normal medications including opioid based painkillers, but often don’t tell their health professional about this. This could lead to issues with withdrawal symptoms, so clinicians should be aware of the high prevalence of use of cannabis in this population.

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids* / therapeutic use
  • Cannabis*
  • Chronic Pain* / drug therapy
  • Endometriosis* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana* / adverse effects
  • Pelvic Pain / drug therapy
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Cannabinoids
  • Medical Marijuana