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Chronic pain patients are increasingly turning to cannabis for relief

Chronic pain affects one in five Americans and recent data compiled by Harvard Medical School suggests that more people are turning to cannabis for relief than ever before.

“Though cannabis use was a taboo just a decade ago, increased widespread availability of medical and recreational cannabis coupled with social acceptability and its potential medicinal value has led to a normalization of its use in everyday life,” the study says.

The study, published earlier this month in the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Therapy, examined data from nearly 250,000 chronic pain patients from 2011 to 2015 and found that their cannabis consumption more than doubled in that time frame.

“We found that cannabis use is increasing among chronic pain patients and a subpopulation of chronic pain patients (tobacco users, men, low household income, Medicaid insurance coverage, and certain chronic pain syndromes),” the study says.

The study notes that the increase in cannabis consumption is “not surprising” given the increasing evidence that cannabis can reduce inflammation and improve the quality of life in chronic pain patients.

“With chronic pain projected to increase over the next two decades to a rate of one in three people from the current rate of one in five people, our findings foretell that cannabis use can be projected to increase even more rapidly.”

The study reports that cannabis has fewer side effects than traditional pain medication and “provides greater symptom management than opioids.” In fact, the study notes that “cannabis may offer a viable therapeutic approach to decreasing opioid dependence.”

It also predicts that cannabis consumption to treat chronic pain will continue to become more common as the plant inches towards legalization in the U.S.

“As a whole, our results show that cannabis use is on the rise in patients with chronic pain and can be expected to continue to trend upwards in the face of increasing societal awareness and availability of legal cannabis.”

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August 2020