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Marijuana’s effectiveness for chronic pain questioned in study

Marijuana’s effectiveness for chronic pain questioned in study

A new study casts doubt on whether marijuana is an effective treatment for pain, according to research funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and published Tuesday on the Annals of Internal Medicine web site. 

Experts have long held that anecdotal evidence has led to the widely held belief that the drug, now legal for medicinal purposes in 29 states and Washington, D.C., works to manage pain. But few studies exist, experts have said.

For the study, researchers examined 27 chronic pain trials to review the benefits of cannabis for treating chronic pain in adults and the harms of cannabis use in chronic pain and general adult populations. They found insufficient evidence on whether medical marijuana was helpful to pain sufferers. The exception was neuropathic or nerve pain, in which researchers found “limited” evidence, according to an abstract.

The study also homed in on adverse side effects, finding “harms in general population studies include increased risk for motor vehicle accidents, psychotic symptoms, and short-term cognitive impairment. Although adverse pulmonary effects were not seen in younger populations, evidence on most other long-term physical harms, in heavy or long-term cannabis users, or in older populations is insufficient.” 



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