In April of this year, results of a 2015 survey of Canadian medical cannabis patients found 73% citing pain as a symptom they treat with medical cannabis. (Specifically, 53% cited chronic pain, 12% arthritis pain and 5% headache). That’s followed closely by stress (60%), insomnia (57%) and depression. This supports previous findings that depression and anxiety are disturbingly prevalent among those suffering chronic pain.
Now a recent study out of Israel suggests that medical cannabis may deliver mental health benefits in addition to pain relief. In this study, three groups of patients were compared. One group received prescription opioids only, a second group was treated with both opioids and medical cannabis and the third group with medical cannabis only.
Depression was reported by 57.1% of those taking opioids only. 51.4% of those being treated with both opioids and cannabis experienced depression.
Those treated only with cannabis reported the lowest rate of depression: 22.3%.
48.4% of those taking only opioids reported suffering from anxiety. The rate dropped to 38.7% for the opioids/cannabis group.
The rate of anxiety reported by those treating their pain with cannabis only was remarkably lower than the other two groups, at just 21.5%.
These results dovetail with reports from Canada and the US of the rates of opioid use dropping sharply in those areas where those with chronic pain have ready access to medical cannabis. This lowered amount of use has been accompanied by a corresponding reduction in rates of opioid overdose.
Medical cannabis may not only ease suffering, but also save lives.
These positive results should compel those in healthcare and medicine to vigorously pursue larger studies to better determine how medical cannabis is counteracting pain, depression and anxiety, and how treatment might be refined to increase efficacy.