NEW research out of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) has thrown up a challenge to the growing belief around cannabis’ analgesic properties.
Study author Dr Gabrielle Campbell, a fellow at NDARC, said it was difficult to disentangle the reasons for cannabis not being clearly effective in reducing all cases of chronic pain.
The study, one of the largest and most in depth ever done on the drug’s medical use, found cannabis does not cut pain, nor does it help sufferers replace opioids.
In addition, and as significantly, users seem to suffer much higher levels of anxiety overall.
“We try to moderate expectations people have around managing pain,” says Professor Michael Farrell, director of NDARC and a senior author on the Lancet paper.
While cannabis has proven medical benefits in treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children, chemotherapy-induced nausea and multiple sclerosis, this new major work involving 1,514 participants over four years, has found it does almost nothing to help people with chronic pain.
With one in five Australians sufferering daily prolonged pain and many stuck on addictive and dangerous opioids, an effective treatment could be hugely lucrative, making the motivation to exaggerate the virtues of any new treatment overly tempting, researchers say.
“Cannabis is however a powerful sedative – a good night’s sleep can be confused with effective pain treatment,” they explain.
“There is a mixed bag of trials on medical cannabis, using differing formulations and testing on various conditions” said Dr Stewart Washer, cannabis company Auscann’s co-founder.
“But well-designed trials get a 50% reduction in pain. It’s huge.”
Access the study at thelancet.com.