Treating pain is the most common justification for the millions in America using products with cannabinoids, the main components in marijuana. Yet, there’s evidence suggesting a cannabis placebo might offer similar pain relief. This brings into question the actual effectiveness of cannabis for pain management. Harvard Health provides insights into this issue, presenting a mix of scientific findings and anecdotal evidence.
Medical cannabis comes in forms like gummies, flowers, pills, and more. But, the therapeutic actions of cannabis, especially in serious conditions like HIV-related wasting syndrome or Crohn’s disease, are backed by reports rather than robust clinical trials. It’s also noted for its muscle relaxant properties and its potential to reduce tremors in Parkinson’s disease. The sedative effects may help to alleviate the symptoms rather than addressing the underlying condition, as mentioned by UCSF Magazine.
University of Washington highlights that cannabis relieves muscle spasms and enhances the effects of anti-spasticity medications without some of the adverse effects seen with opioids, such as respiratory suppression or constipation. For those with spinal cord injuries (SCI), managing spasticity is a common use for marijuana, which is further elaborated by the University of Washington.
However, the lack of rigorous testing due to production and governmental restrictions results in a scarcity of comprehensive clinical research defining cannabis’s safety and efficacy in disease treatment. Despite preliminary evidence suggesting various therapeutic effects, including nausea reduction, the full scope of cannabis’s medical potential remains uncertain, a point discussed by Jefferson University.
There’s a notable increase in marijuana use among athletes for pain management, with many reporting relief. However, the relationship between the pain-alleviating and anxiolytic effects of marijuana has yet to be fully understood, as indicated by research referenced by Johns Hopkins University. Moreover, the rising use of edibles, which have a delayed effect, is related to acute marijuana toxicity cases, a fact reported by Johns Hopkins University.
Additionally, the stigma around medical marijuana usage is reducing, especially among older adults, with its prevalence nearly doubling from 2015 to 2018. This demographic shift is covered by Harvard Health. While anecdotal evidence and initial studies show promise, the question remains—does cannabis truly relieve pain, or are we witnessing a placebo effect or the result of its sedative qualities? The scientific community continues to seek answers amidst these uncertainties.