Combining Cannabis Products May Lead to Best Results in Managing Pain

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For those trying to decide whether cannabis flower or cannabis edibles, oils and tinctures work best to help manage pain, a new study has a suggestion: don’t choose just one, but instead use them in a combination. 


Researchers at the University of Michigan recently published a study that seeks to provide guidance to physicians on how to prescribe medical marijuana for patients who use it for pain management. After analyzing data from 1,087 patients, they determined that a combination of inhalation and non-inhalation “administration routes” (how people consumed the cannabis) provided patients with the highest satisfaction in their results.

“While all participants reported similarly decreased pain, participants using non-inhalation and inhalation administration routes reported larger improvements in health than the non-inhalation and inhalation subgroups,” the researchers wrote in the study, published in the Journal of Cannabis Research.

RELATED: New Study: Cannabis Patients See Improvement in Sleep, PTSD, and Pain Management

Guidance to physicians

The best practices for treating pain with cannabis is a worthwhile topic, as pain management is one of the main reasons people turn to medical marijuana. Also, medical marijuana is more readily available now than ever. People in 36 states can use cannabis for specific medical conditions. In some states, those conditions include treatment of chronic pain.

In conducting the study, the team from the University of Michigan Medical School sought to provide guidance to doctors and other clinicians in a position to advise patients on the use of medical marijuana, as well as write prescriptions.

Medical cannabis comes in many forms, including flower, edibles, concentrates, topical lotions and creams, and tinctures. Beyond the differences in how they are administered, they also differ in how they interact with body chemistry. For example, smoked or vaped flower causes effects within five to 10 minutes, while people might not feel the impact of tinctures, edibles and topicals for 15 minutes or even hours later.

The researchers noted that the difference in how these cannabis products impact those who use them has not been well-studied in the context of treating pain. 

They chose to contact 1,087 adults in the United States and Canada who currently self-administer cannabis for chronic pain. The patients all agreed to complete a survey from January 2018 to August 2018. Each reported their routine for taking cannabis as well as their level of satisfaction in how it managed their pain.

The average patient age was 49.6 years. More than 60 percent were female.

RELATED: Do Certain Cannabis Varieties Have More Pain Relief Properties Than Others?

Patients reported reduction in pain

All the study participants reported a reduction in pain no matter what cannabis product they used or their routine in using it (such as using it in the morning vs. at night). However, those who followed a routine that combined smoking flower as well as other products that don’t require inhalation “reported significantly greater improvements in health and more frequent substitutions of cannabis for other pain medications,” according to the study.

The study also provided insight into how people use medical marijuana. For example, they reported that 45 percent followed a non-inhalation and inhalation routine, while 36.2 percent used inhalation alone and 18.8 percent used non-inhalation alone.

The study also found that women and older patients tended to use cannabis products that don’t require smoking or vaping. 

The new study provides an important step toward determining how patients use medical marijuana, as well as the impact of different combinations of products on chronic pain. The hope is that the more experts learn in this area, the better job medical professionals can do with providing patients proper treatment.

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