Study Confirms Cannabis Is Effective, Safe As Pain Killer

Scientists previously proposed that the health benefits of cannabis can help address the opioid crisis in the U.S. Now, a new study provides evidence that the drug can be a safe and “very effective” way to alleviate pain.

Researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) said that cannabis has fast-acting effects to reduce pain in people with different health conditions. They also found that unlike opioids, cannabis users experience little to no side effects. 

“Our country has been flooded with an over-prescription of opioids medications, which then often leads to non-prescription opioid and heroin use for many people,” lead researcher Jacob Miguel Vigil said in a statement. “Cannabis offers the average patient an effective alternative to using opioids for general use in the treatment of pain with very minimal negative side effects for most people.” 

The study, published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, analyzed the largest database of real-time recordings of cannabis effects in the U.S. The researchers collected data through Releaf App that people use to report effects of cannabis-based products.

The app aims to help educate the public on how different types of products, cannabis species and cannabinoid contents can affect the body and medical conditions. 

Cannabis As Pain Reliever 

The study shows that whole dried cannabis flower, also known as buds, delivered the greatest pain relief among users. Other cannabis products containing high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) also appeared effective to reduce pain. 

Nearly 95 percent of cannabis administration sessions in the study led to pain relief. However, the people who used more cannabidiol (CBD) reported only small changes in their pain intensity.

"Our results confirm that cannabis use is a relatively safe and effective medication for alleviating pain, and that is the most important message to learn from our results,” Vigil said. “Cannabis likely has numerous constituents that possess analgesic properties beyond THC, including terpenes and flavonoids, which likely act synergistically for people that use whole dried cannabis flower.” 

However, the researchers noted people should moderately use cannabis because of potential addiction. Users may also experience short-term problems, such as cognitive and behavioral changes.

Cannabis Plant This picture taken on March 16, 2017 shows legal cannabis plants growing under eavy light in the greenhouse of Switzerland's cannabis producer KannaSwiss in Koelliken. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images