Conflicting Evidence Prove How Challenging Chronic Pain Is

Does marijuana really relieve chronic pain? That depends on who you ask. Some patients will say it does while others say it does not. Even in the scientific realm, there’s disagreement. Conflicting evidence has seen to that. But that same evidence proves one of the most important aspects of chronic pain: treating it effectively is challenging.

There is no single treatment that works best for every patient. And despite objections from within the medical community, it is not even fair to say that traditional treatments are always the best options. The truth is that pain is a very personal thing. The age-old concept that a particular treatment will not work for every patient with the same diagnosis is only exacerbated in the realm of chronic pain. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can look beyond narcotic painkillers and invasive surgeries.

Medical Cannabis Works, Or Not

The question of medical cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain has no easy answers. The topic continues to be one of the most hotly debated within the medical cannabis community. Surely there would be consensus among patients, right? Not so fast.

Many of the chronic pain patients that regularly visit the Beehive Farmacy medical cannabis pharmacy in Salt Lake City, UT would willingly swear by cannabis as a chronic pain treatment. The pharmacy’s operators say that patient after patient has found tremendous relief. But by the same token, they also acknowledge that some patients give medical cannabis an honest shot and never find the relief they are looking for. That is just the way it goes sometimes.

Clinical Evidence

So what about clinical evidence? That’s a mixed bag as well. One study published in 2017 seemed to indicate that medical cannabis could alleviate neuropathic pain for some patients. Another study published in 2023 found more than half of the non-cancer pain patients studied reported significant relief with cannabis.

By contrast, a 2022 meta-analysis of 20 randomized controlled studies pointed to cannabis as having no pharmacological effect on chronic pain. In fact, the study suggested that cannabis is no better than placebo as a pain treatment.

Perception Makes a Difference

Vast differences among medical cannabis patients and researchers alike can be attributed to several factors. At the top of the list is pain perception. In other words, a person’s thoughts about pain can have a very profound impact on their physical experience. The link between perception and physical response has been proven time and again.

Let us go back to the placebo study. Let’s also say that the researchers’ conclusions are accurate. There is no denying the fact that participants reported pain relief with both placebo and medical cannabis. Researchers concluded that the placebo group felt better because they believed they would feel better after taking their medications. Here is the question: does the mechanism really matter?

Medical science does not yet know of any mechanism that would explain why chronic pain patients find relief with medical cannabis. If that mechanism turns out to be solely perception, what does it matter? What matters is that chronic pain patients get the relief they want. Whether the mechanism is perception or some sort of physiological response is immaterial.

No Best Treatment

We cannot definitively conclude from either clinical evidence or its anecdotal counterpart that medical cannabis is an effective chronic pain treatment for most patients. All we can say for sure is that the evidence offers mixed results. Chronic pain is a very personal thing and extremely challenging to treat unless one keeps an open mind. Cannabis might work, or not.

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