Recent data shows that as many as 35% of primary care patients report medical use of marijuana, most commonly for pain treatment (Zhang-James et al., 2023).
As the marijuana industry expands, more individuals may contemplate using marijuana as a medicine. In doing so, it’s essential to consider whether marijuana actually helps chronic pain. Historically the idea has been controversial, primarily due to the lack of extensive evidence and several mixed opinions from medical professionals.
A recent retrospective cohort study by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, State University of New York Upstate Medical University, provides some insight into whether marijuana helps chronic pain. The study used the cold pressor test (CPT) to measure pain tolerance. CPT is commonly used to measure pain tolerance and is performed by submerging a participant’s forearm in a pump‐circulated, 1°C tub of ice water for as long as the patient can tolerate before needing to withdraw or three minutes. Patients using marijuana daily had a median CPT of 46 s, and the control group (patients who didn’t use marijuana at all) had a median CPT of 105 s. The results of the study revealed that study participants who used marijuana daily had significantly decreased pain tolerance when compared to study participants who didn’t use marijuana (Zhang-James et al., 2023).
Such results suggest that daily marijuana use may worsen chronic pain by reducing pain tolerance. When considering the risk/benefit, daily marijuana users risk addiction without any long‐term benefits for chronic pain; both primary care providers and patients using medical marijuana for pain should be aware of such risk.
Zhang‐James, Y., Wyon, E., Grapsas, D., &Johnson, B. (2023). Daily cannabis use may cause cannabis‐ induced hyperalgesia. The American Journal on Addictions, 1‐7. https://doi:10.1111/ajad.13456