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Cannabis for Intractable Pain

On January 16th, 2018, an Illinois Judge ordered the Department of Public Health to add intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions under the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.  The spokesperson for the Department announced that they plan to appeal that ruling.  Find more about the Illinois ruling here.

As more proof demonstrating the benefits of cannabis, a recent release from the Minnesota Department of Health on March 1st, 2018 discussed findings regarding cannabis and pain relief for patients suffering from intractable pain.  The release and study details can be found here.

The Department looked at 2,245 patients that were enrolled in the program for intractable pain during the second half of 2016.  2,174 of those patients purchased medical cannabis products during the five month evaluation period and completed a self-evaluation prior to each purchase.  Patients rated their pain levels, enjoyment, and general activity on a scale from 0-10.

Of those patients that initially reported moderate to high levels of pain,

  • 42% experienced a decrease of pain by 30% or more.
  • 22% maintained that pain reduction of 30% or greater over a 4 month period.
  • 63% reduced or eliminated their opiate use after six months (of those patients that reported taking opioid medications prior to using medical cannabis).

The 30% threshold is often used in clinical studies “to define clinically meaningful improvement” regarding pain relief.

Side effects were reported by 40% of patients, but of those reported side effects, 90% were considered mild to moderate, including “dry mouth, drowsiness, fatigue and mental clouding.”

Patients also reported an overall improvement in sleep and a reduction in anxiety.


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