a median 20% reduction in pain symptoms, the researchers found. Median means half had greater pain reduction, half had less.
Study participants also reported other benefits.
Anxiety levels dropped by a median 22% and depression severity by 12%. At the same time, quality of life scores rose by a median 14%. In all, about 60% of participants reported improvement in symptoms tied to medical marijuana, the investigators found.
After six months of using medical marijuana, nearly half stopped all other pain drugs, according to the researchers.
“Medical cannabis has been suggested as a possible remedy for appetite loss; however, most patients in this study still lost weight,” Meiri says. “As a substantial portion were diagnosed with progressive cancer, a weight decline is expected with disease progression.”
He also notes that sexual function improved for most of the men, but worsened for most women.
Bekker says a majority of studies show that medical marijuana improves patients’ quality of life. Because the results of this study occurred over six months, it is difficult to believe that they only represent a “placebo effect,” he adds.
“From what we know, the majority of studies show improvement in quality of life,” Bekker shares, noting that marijuana may not actually prevent the pain of chronic disease but it makes living with the pain easier.
“Let’s say you have chronic pain and you’re watching an interesting movie on TV, for two hours you don’t think about it, but when the movie is over you start feeling pain again,” he says. “Cannabis is the same effect. Pain may be still there and the reduction in pain is not dramatic, but patients cope better with the pain. Quality of life unquestionably improves with cannabis.”
For some patients, however, marijuana may not be the best choice for pain relief, he notes. That’s especially true for those with a history of psychiatric disorders.
If you are interested in learning how medical marijuana may help you manage pain, talk with your doctor about whether or not this is an appropriate option for you.