Chronic pain and anxiety are two of the most common health conditions diagnosed around the world. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 20% of people on the planet suffer from chronic pain to some degree.
Anxiety also affects a large number of people globally, with it being estimated that over 264 million people around the world are now diagnosed with some form of anxiety disorder. It’s quite possible that the number is actually higher due to the lack of healthcare access in many parts of the planet.
For both conditions, the prescribing of pharmaceutical medications is standard, which is unfortunate. Many pharmaceutical drugs are not only ineffective – they can be harmful and addictive. This is not to say that is the case every time, however, it’s definitely a cause for concern.
The cannabis plant is significantly safer compared to many pharmaceutical drugs, and for many patients, cannabis can be more effective. Below is information regarding a recent study in the United Kingdom that found that cannabis is effective in treating chronic pain and anxiety, via a news release from NORML:
London, United Kingdom: The use of cannabis products is associated with symptomatic improvements in pain patients with and without comorbid anxiety, according to observational trial data published in the journal Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics.
British investigators assessed the safety and efficacy of cannabis-derived products in 1,254 chronic pain patients. Of these, 711 subjects were also diagnosed with anxiety. Study subjects were participants in the UK Medical Cannabis Registry, and each of them possessed a doctor’s authorization to access cannabis. Study participants consumed cannabis by either vaporizing marijuana flower or by ingesting plant-derived extracts containing both THC and CBD. Researchers assessed subjects’ symptoms compared to baseline at one, three, and six-months.
Cannabis treatment was associated with “significant improvements in all primary outcomes … at all timepoints,” authors reported. Those with comorbid anxiety reported greater improvements in health-related quality of life as compared to those subjects diagnosed with chronic pain only. Both cohorts achieved significant reductions in their opioid consumption over the course of the study – a finding that is consistent with dozens of other observational trials.
Authors concluded: “A potential association between initiation of CBMPs [cannabis-based medicinal products] and improvements in pain and HRQoL [health-related quality of life], as well as reductions in opioid consumption and an acceptable AE [adverse events] profile in both cohorts was found, complimenting previous UKMCR studies. Moreover, CP [chronic pain] patients with co-morbid anxiety may achieve better HRQoL outcomes and potentially pain outcomes due to CBMPs’ peripheral and central effects.”
Several placebo-controlled trials document the ability of either inhaled or vaporized herbal cannabis to significantly mitigate pain in various patient populations, including those suffering from HIV, diabetes, spinal cord injury, or severe treatment-resistant neuropathy (nerve pain). Several observational trials similarly show reduced anxiety in patients taking medical cannabis. Data published earlier this year in the journal JAMA Network Open reported that nearly one in four pain patients residing in states where medical cannabis access is legal self-identify as marijuana consumers.
In recent months, British researchers have published findings from several observational studies involving patients enrolled in the UK Medical Cannabis Registry, including those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, depression, refractory epilepsy, headaches, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Full text of the study, “Comparing the effects of medical cannabis for chronic pain patients with and without comorbid anxiety: A cohort study,” appears in Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics. Additional information on cannabis and pain management is available from NORML’s publication, Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids.