A federally funded review on cannabis products highlighted the small number of studies that exist on medicinal cannabis, something that surprised researchers. Despite this, the study found some evidence of the plant’s impact on pain management.
Conducted by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the review used data from scientifically valid studies that included randomized controlled studies and observational studies. Researchers examined over 3,000 studies conducted since January of this year, finding that only 25 studies had scientifically valid evidence.
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While the evidence that researchers found on cannabis-supporting pain management was thin, there were some products that were associated with short-term pain management, particularly on neuropathic pain. These medications are dronabinol and nabilone (which contain THC), and nabiximols (a mix of THC and CBD), with the first two having FDA approval.
Researchers discussed their results, sharing how surprised they were by the limited amount of research that there is available. “With so much buzz around cannabis-related products, and the easy availability of recreational and medical marijuana in many states, consumers and patients might assume there would be more evidence about the benefits and side effects,” said lead author Marian S. McDonagh. “Unfortunately, there is very little scientifically valid research into most these products.”
“We saw only a small group of observational cohort studies on cannabis products that would be easily available in states that allow it, and these were not designed to answer the important questions on treating chronic pain,” McDonagh added.
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The study’s results show how important it is for the government to encourage cannabis research in any way they can, providing users with the information they need to stay safe and informed.
“Honestly, the best advice is to talk to your primary care physician about possible treatments for chronic pain,” said McDonagh. “If you want to consider cannabis, you need to talk to your doctor.”