Medical Cannabis for Pain Relief

This page contains some of the medical cannabis research studies that have been carried out into the use of medical cannabis for chronic pain relief.

The use of cannabis for pain relief is increasingly common in many countries as the growing evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, for it’s efficacy in pain management is compelling. As more countries are legalizing cannabis for medicinal use, so too are the number of patients using cannabis for pain relief and the number of scientific research studies being carried out.

Experience of adjunctive cannabis use for chronic non-cancer pain:
Findings from the Pain and Opioids IN Treatment (POINT) study.


There is increasing debate about cannabis use for medical purposes, including for symptomatic treatment of chronic pain. The study investigated patterns and correlates of cannabis use in a large community sample of people who had been prescribed opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.


The POINT study included 1514 people in Australia who had been prescribed pharmaceutical opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. Data on cannabis use, ICD-10 cannabis use disorder and cannabis use for pain were collected. We explored associations between demographic, pain and other patient characteristics and cannabis use for pain.


One in six (16%) had used cannabis for pain relief, 6% in the previous month. A quarter reported that they would use it for pain relief if they had access. Those using cannabis for pain on average were younger, reported greater pain severity, greater interference from and poorer coping with pain, and more days out of role in the past year. They had been prescribed opioids for longer, were on higher opioid doses, and were more likely to be non-adherent with their opioid use. Those using cannabis for pain had higher pain interference after controlling for reported pain severity. Almost half (43%) of the sample had ever used cannabis for recreational purposes, and 12% of the entire cohort met criteria for an ICD-10 cannabis use disorder.


Cannabis use for pain relief purposes appears common among people living with chronic non-cancer pain, and users report greater pain relief in combination with opioids than when opioids are used alone.

Among those using cannabis for pain, the average pain relief they reported they obtained from using cannabis adjunctively with their prescription medicines was 70 percent (where 100% meant complete pain relief). In contrast, the average reported pain relief they reported receiving from their prescription pain medications alone was only 50 percent.

“The findings here suggest that from a service user perspective, there is a significant sub-population of people living with CNCP (chronic non-cancer pain) who see cannabis as a helpful adjunct to pain relief,” authors concluded.

A survey of cannabis (marijuana) use and self-reported benefit in men with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome.


Chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS) is a chronic pelvic pain condition largely refractory to treatment. Cannabis (marijuana) use has been reported for a wide variety of chronic pain conditions, but no study has examined prevalence of cannabis use, symptom benefit or side effects, or frequency in CP/CPPS.


Foundation website (n = 244). Participants completed questionnaires (demographics Participants were recruited from an outpatient CP/CPPS urology clinic (n = 98) and online through the Prostatitis, CP/CPPS, depression, cannabis).


The clinic sample included Canadian patients and the online sample included primarily American patients. Due to differences, groups were examined separately. Almost 50% of respondents reported using cannabis (clinic n = 49; online n = 89). Of the cannabis users, 36.8% of clinic and 75% of online respondents reported that it improved their symptoms. Most of the respondents (from the clinic and online groups) reported that cannabis improved their mood, pain, muscle spasms, and sleep. However, they did not note any improvements for weakness, fatigue, numbness, ambulation, and urination. Overall, the effectiveness of cannabis for CP/CPPS was “somewhat/very effective” (57% clinic; 63% online). There were no differences between side effects or choice of consumption and most reported using cannabis rarely.


These are the first estimates in men suffering from CP/CPPS and suggest that while cannabis use is prevalent, its medical use and benefit are unknown. This is an understudied area and the benefit or hazard for cannabis use awaits further study.

Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) revisited: can this concept explain the therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?


Ethan B. Russo’s paper of December 1, 2003 explored the concept of a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) underlying the pathophysiology of migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other functional conditions alleviated by clinical cannabis.


Available literature was reviewed, including searches via the National Library of medicine database and other sources.


A review of the literature indicates that significant progress has been made since Dr. Ethan B. Russo’s landmark paper, just ten years ago (February 2, 2004). Investigation at that time suggested that cannabinoids can block spinal, peripheral and gastrointestional mechanisms that promote pain in headache, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and muscle spasm.


Subsequent research has confirmed that underlying endocannabinoid deficiencies indeed play a role in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and a growing list of other medical conditions. Clinical experience is bearing this out. Further research and especially, clinical trials will further demonstrate the usefulness of medical cannabis. As legal barriers fall and scientific bias fades this will become more apparent.

Therapeutic benefits of cannabis: a patient survey in Hawaii
2014 April


Clinical research regarding the therapeutic benefits of cannabis (“marijuana”) has been almost non-existent in the United States since cannabis was given Schedule I status in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. In order to discover the benefits and adverse effects perceived by medical cannabis patients, especially with regards to chronic pain, we hand-delivered surveys to one hundred consecutive patients who were returning for yearly re-certification for medical cannabis use in Hawaii. The response rate was 94%. Mean and median ages were 49.3 and 51 years respectively. Ninety-seven per cent of respondents used cannabis primarily for chronic pain. Average pain improvement on a 0-10 pain scale was 5.0 (from 7.8 to 2.8), which translates to a 64% relative decrease in average pain. Half of all respondents also noted relief from stress/anxiety, and nearly half (45%) reported relief from insomnia. Most patients (71%) reported no adverse effects, while 6% reported a cough or throat irritation and 5% feared arrest even though medical cannabis is legal in Hawaii. No serious adverse effects were reported.

These results suggest that Cannabis is an extremely safe and effective medication for many chronic pain patients. Cannabis appears to alleviate pain, insomnia, and may be helpful in relieving anxiety. Cannabis has shown extreme promise in the treatment of numerous medical problems and deserves to be released from the current Schedule I federal prohibition against research and prescription.

Cannabis (medical marijuana) treatment for motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson disease: an open-label observational study.


The use of cannabis as a therapeutic agent for various medical conditions has been well documented. However, clinical trials in patients with Parkinson disease (PD) have yielded conflicting results. The aim of the present open-label observational study was to assess the clinical effect of cannabis on motor and non-motor symptoms of PD.


Twenty-two patients with PD attending the motor disorder clinic of a tertiary medical centre in 2011 to 2012 were evaluated at baseline and 30 minutes after smoking cannabis using the following battery: Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale, visual analog scale, present pain intensity scale, Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire, as well as Medical Cannabis Survey National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre Questionnaire.


Mean (SD) total score on the motor Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale score improved significantly from 33.1 (13.8) at baseline to 23.2 (10.5) after cannabis consumption (t = 5.9; P < 0.001). Analysis of specific motor symptoms revealed significant improvement after treatment in tremor (P < 0.001), rigidity (P = 0.004), and bradykinesia (P < 0.001).


There was also significant improvement of sleep and pain scores. No significant adverse effects of the drug were observed. The study suggests that cannabis might have a place in the therapeutic armamentarium of PD. Larger, controlled studies are needed to verify the results.

Therapeutic satisfaction and subjective effects of different strains of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis.
2014 June


In The Netherlands, pharmaceutical-grade cultivated cannabis is distributed for medicinal purposes as commissioned by the Ministry of Health. Few studies have thus far described its therapeutic efficacy or subjective (adverse) effects in patients. The aims of this study are to assess the therapeutic satisfaction within a group of patients using prescribed pharmaceutical-grade cannabis and to compare the subjective effects among the available strains with special focus on their delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol content.

In a cross-sectional and natural design, users of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis were investigated with questionnaires. Medical background of the patients was asked as well as experienced therapeutic effects and characteristics of cannabis use. Subjective effects were measured with psychometric scales and used to compare among the strains of cannabis used across this group of patients.

One hundred and two patients were included; their average age was 53 years and 76% used it for more than a year preceding this study. Chronic pain (53%; n = 54) was the most common medical indication for using cannabis followed by multiple sclerosis (23%; n = 23), and 86% (n = 88) of patients (almost) always experienced therapeutic satisfaction when using pharmaceutical cannabis. Dejection, anxiety, and appetite stimulation were found to differ among the 3 strains of cannabis.

These results show that patients report therapeutic satisfaction with pharmaceutical cannabis, mainly pain alleviation. Some subjective effects were found to differ among the available strains of cannabis, which is discussed in relation to their different tetrahydrocannabinol/cannabidiol content. These results may aid in further research and critical appraisal for medicinally prescribed cannabis products.

Treatment with a Heme Oxygenase 1 Inducer Enhances the Antinociceptive Effects of µ-Opioid, δ-Opioid, and Cannabinoid 2 Receptors during Inflammatory Pain.
September 11, 2014

“The administration of µ-opioid receptor (MOR), δ-opioid receptor (DOR), and cannabinoid 2 receptor (CB2R) agonists attenuates inflammatory pain.

We investigated whether treatment with the heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) inducer, cobalt protoporphyrin IX (CoPP), could modulate the local effects and expression of MOR, DOR, or CB2R during chronic inflammatory pain…

This study shows that the HO-1 inducer (CoPP) increased the local antinociceptive effects of MOR, DOR, and CB2R agonists during inflammatory pain by altering the peripheral expression of MOR and DOR.

Therefore, the co administration of CoPP with local morphine, DPDPE, or JWH-015 may be a good strategy for the management of chronic inflammatory pain.”

Involvement of central and peripheral cannabinoid receptors on antinociceptive effect of tetrahydrocannabinol in muscle pain

“The administration of µ-opioid receptor (MOR), δ-opioid receptor (DOR), and cannabinoid 2 receptor (CB2R) agonists attenuates inflammatory pain.

Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain.

Both central and peripheral cannabinoid receptors are involved in the reduction of muscle pain by THC.

Cannabinoid (CB) receptors have emerged as an attractive therapeutic target for pain management in recent years and the interest in the use of cannabinoids is gradually increasing, particularly in patients where conventional treatments fail. Muscle pain is a major clinical problem and new pharmacological approaches are being studied. Recently, we have demonstrated that cannabinoid synthetic agonists are useful to reduce muscular pain in two animal models, where the local administration is effective.

Now, we want to know if tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabinoid natural derivative with therapeutic use in humans, is also effective in reducing acute muscle pain. The antinociceptive effect of THC by systemic (i.p.) and local (i.m.) administration was tested in two animal models of acute muscle pain, rat masseter and gastrocnemius, induced by hypertonic saline (HS) injection. The drugs used were the non-selective agonist THC and two selective cannabinoid antagonists, AM251 (CB1) and AM630 (CB2). THC, i.p. and i.m. administered, reduced the nociceptive behaviours induced by HS in both muscular pain models. The antinociceptive effect induced by the systemic administration of THC was mediated by CB1 receptors in the masseter muscle whereas in gastrocnemius both CB1 and CB2 receptors participated. When THC was administered locally, only CB2 receptors were involved in the antinociceptive effect in both muscles.

This study suggests that THC could be a future pharmacological option in the treatment of muscle pain. The local administration of THC could be an interesting option to treat this type of pain avoiding the central adverse effects.

Therapeutic Cannabis Vs Medical Marijuana

Is there a difference between medical cannabis and medical marijuana? No, not really. The general population tends to refer to cannabis as marijuana, but those involved in the research and medical use of it tend to refer to it as cannabis because that’s its scientific name and because marijuana is associated with the recreational use. (It’s also sometimes referred to as medicinal hemp oil.)