Cannabis for the Treatment of Chronic Pain in the Era of an Opioid Epidemic: A Symposium-Based Review of Sociomedical Science.

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Abstract

Objective

This manuscript reviews medical literature published pertaining to the management of chronic pain with medical marijuana therapy (MMJ), with an emphasis on the social, medical, and legal aspects of therapy.

Design

Narrative review of peer-reviewed literature.

Methods

The 3rd Symposium on Controlled Substances and Their Alternatives for the Treatment of Pain was held in Boston on February 27, 2016, with a focus on MMJ for the treatment of chronic pain. Invited speakers had diverse backgrounds, including pain management, addiction psychiatry, neurology, and legal authorities. The purpose of this conference and this subsequent narrative review is to provide a medical, legal, and logistical framework for physicians and other health care providers to refer to when considering the initiation of medical marijuana therapy.

Results

The invited speakers each covered a unique aspect of MMJ therapy for the treatment of chronic pain. These presentations highlighted the current data for and against the use of MMJ as a pain therapy. Optimal patient selection and screening, in addition to policy developments, were discussed.

Conclusions

Increasing interest in MMJ for chronic pain underscores a need for primary care and pain physicians to better understand the indications and evidence for its use free from cultural bias. Given a lack of full conclusive clinical utility, continued research is needed to better understand how to best utilize MMJ therapy for the treatment of chronic pain. Policy initiatives, such as enumerated indications, should follow medical science in order to prevent another abused substance epidemic.

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