Cannabinoid Therapy: Attitudes and Experiences of People With Chronic Pain : The Clinical Journal of Pain

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Original Articles

Cannabinoid Therapy

Attitudes and Experiences of People With Chronic Pain

Gewandter, Jennifer S. PhD*; Edwards, Robert R. PhD; Hill, Kevin P. MD; Wasan, Ajay D. MD§; Hooker, Julia E. BS; Lape, Emma C. BS; Besharat, Soroush BS*; Cowan, Penney; Le Foll, Bernard MD#,**; Ditre, Joseph W. PhD; Freeman, Roy MD††

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The Clinical Journal of Pain 39(6):p 249-258, June 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000001109

Abstract

Objective: 

Clinical trials of cannabinoids for chronic pain have mixed and often inconclusive results. In contrast, many prospective observational studies show the analgesic effects of cannabinoids. This survey study aimed to examine the experiences/attitudes of individuals with chronic pain who are currently taking, have previously taken, or never taken cannabinoids for chronic pain to inform future research.

Methods: 

This study is based on a cross-sectional, web-based survey of individuals with self-reported chronic pain. Participants were invited to participate through an email that was distributed to the listservs of patient advocacy groups and foundations that engage individuals with chronic pain.

Results: 

Of the 969 respondents, 444 (46%) respondents reported currently taking, 213 (22%) previously taken, and 312 (32%) never taken cannabinoids for pain. Participants reported using cannabinoids to treat a wide variety of chronic pain conditions. Those currently taking cannabinoids (vs previously) more frequently reported: (1) large improvements from cannabinoids in all pain types, including particularly difficult-to-treat chronic overlapping pain conditions (eg, pelvic pain), (2) improvements in comorbid symptoms (eg, sleep), and (3) lower interference from side effects. Those currently taking cannabinoids reported more frequent and satisfactory communication with clinicians regarding cannabinoid use. Those never taken cannabinoids reported a lack of suggestion/approval of a clinician (40%), illegality (25%), and lack of FDA regulation (19%) as reasons for never trying cannabinoids.

Conclusion: 

These findings underscore the importance of conducting high-quality clinical trials that include diverse pain populations and clinically relevant outcomes that if successful, could support FDA approval of cannabinoid products. Clinicians could then prescribe and monitor these treatments similarly to other chronic pain medications.

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