HealthDay News — For patients with chronic pain, medical cannabis (MC) use has a positive effect on maintaining sleep; however, cannabinoids do not appear to reduce cancer pain, according to a study and review published online Jan. 20 in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.

Sharon R. Sznitman, Ph.D., from the University of Haifa in Israel, and colleagues recruited 128 individuals with chronic pain who were older than 50 years (66 MC users and 62 nonusers) to examine the correlations between cannabis use and sleep problems. The researchers found that MC use correlated with fewer problems with waking up at night compared with non-MC use after adjustment for age, sex, pain level, and use of sleep and antidepressant medications. More problems waking up at night and falling asleep were seen with frequent MC use.

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Elaine G. Boland, M.D., Ph.D., from the Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in the United Kingdom, and colleagues compared the beneficial and adverse effects of cannabis/cannabinoids versus placebo/other active agents for treatment of cancer-related pain in adults. A total of six randomized controlled trials were included in the systematic review (1,460 participants) and five were included in the meta-analysis (1,442 participants). The researchers found no difference in the change in average Numeric Rating Scale pain scores between cannabinoids and placebo. Compared with placebo, cannabinoids had a higher risk for adverse events, especially somnolence.

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“Based on evidence with a low risk of bias, cannabinoids cannot be recommended for the treatment of cancer-related pain,” Boland and colleagues write.

Abstract/Full Text – Sznitman

Abstract/Full Text – Boland