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In-Depth Coverage Of The Irish And European Markets

Chronic Pain and Cannabis: What is the evidence?

Chronic pain is a silent epidemic, silently affecting 60 million people worldwide, with 13% of Ireland’s population grappling with its debilitating grip. Unlike acute pain, which often fades with time, chronic pain lingers, disrupting lives and shattering dreams. For years, traditional pharmaceuticals have been the go-to treatment, but their side effects and potential for addiction have left many searching for a safer, more effective solution.


Scientific Insights: The Efficacy of Medical Cannabis

A 2023 study conducted between 2018-2022 in Australia provides some insight regarding the effectiveness of medical cannabis for chronic pain. Over 3,100 patients at specialist clinics were followed for an average of two years. Most had chronic non-cancer pain and used CBD-dominant products. Participants reported significant improvements in various aspects of their quality of life, including physical functioning, mental health, and social well-being.  More notably these benefits persisted over time, suggesting medical cannabis can offer sustained relief for certain patients.


The study further highlighted the potential impact on pain itself, although specific pain intensity measures weren't reported. Nonetheless, the observed improvements in functionality and overall well-being indirectly suggest potential pain reduction. Interestingly, compared to traditional medications, cannabis rarely causes serious adverse events, with most side effects being reported as mild, such as sleepiness, and dizziness.


In an additional Australian study, 55 participants used medical cannabis for three months, and significant reductions in both pain intensity and interference were reported. Notably, these improvements extended beyond pain management, encompassing positive changes in quality of life, general health, mood, and sleep.


In a 2023 study, the challenge of addressing chronic neck and back pain with medical cannabis and its tolerability found doses of 10:25 THC: CBD was well-tolerated and associated with clinically meaningful reductions in pain levels. Additionally, improvements in depressive symptoms and functional interference were noted, although some inconsistencies in sleep outcomes were observed. Adverse events were generally mild, with a notable occurrence during lower doses, suggesting a possible tolerance development.


Patient Perspectives: Stories of Transformation

The significance of medical cannabis in alleviating chronic pain among patients should not be underestimated. With an increasing number of states in the US regulating the cannabis industry, there is a noticeable trend of patients turning to cannabis for pain management. A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that three out of ten individuals suffering from chronic pain opt for cannabis as an alternative to other medications, including opioids, with half of them reporting a reduction in their reliance on pain medication. Among the participants, 38.7% noted a decrease in their need for physical therapy, while 26% reported reduced dependence on cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Furthermore, 19% mentioned a reduction in the use of meditation when incorporating cannabis into their pain management regimen.


A Belfast mother of three, Jocelyn, shares her life-changing experience managing chronic pain with medical cannabis. Suffering from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a condition causing poor muscle connectivity and constant pain, Jocelyn endured years of reliance on opioid medications, including eight tramadol a day, which left her with a diminished quality of life and depression due to side effects. However, three years ago, she was prescribed medical cannabis, a decision that she credits with transforming her life. With cannabis, Jocelyn has significantly reduced her medication intake, returned to work, and pursued education goals. She emphasizes the importance of legal access to medical cannabis, as it not only alleviates physical pain but also enhances her mental well-being by eliminating opioid-related side effects. Though initially hesitant, her family now supports her decision, prompting Jocelyn to advocate for increased awareness of cannabis as a viable treatment option for chronic pain sufferers.


The evidence highlights the significant potential of medical cannabis in easing the challenges associated with chronic pain. It is evident that medical cannabis not only provides sustained relief and enhances the quality of life but also offers a safer alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals, which often carry adverse effects and risks of dependence. Despite many countries recognizing chronic pain as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis access, hurdles and obstacles remain. Therefore, there is a pressing need for increased awareness and advocacy to integrate medical cannabis into mainstream healthcare, guaranteeing that all individuals suffering from chronic pain have equitable access to this therapeutic option.



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