Right you are! Even though it’s not specifically approved, pain relief is the most common off-label use for medical marijuana. Not all pain is the same, however, and cannabis seems to best serve a niche clientele among the agonized and achy.
Chronic nerve pain affects up to 2 percent of the population (typically as a consequence of surgery or HIV/AIDS), and it’s a condition that does not respond well to treatment: Less than half of patients can find even partial relief in our current battery of medication. But for the unserved 50 percent, cannabis offers a new hope. A 2015 meta-analysis by the American Medical Association reviewed 12 trials and concluded that there is “moderate-quality evidence” that cannabis—or more specifically, THC—effectively treats neuropathic pain. That’s hardly a full endorsement, but, given the rudimentary state of cannabis research, it’s the highest praise JAMA has to offer
Delving down into the weeds, there is conflicting findings about optimal dosage and even effect: Low concentrations of THC may work as well as moderate concentrations, or it may not work at all. High concentrations (according to one report) can actually increase pain. Another study even found that smoking was the best delivery system—which in not something the Man wants to hear.
But even if weed is unarguably an analgesic, Mr. Establishment can take satisfaction in the proviso that the finding is “provisional” and the efficacy is “not great.” But, to put that in context, if you rate your chronic pain a 6 out of 10 and cannabis drops it even to a 5, that’s still a real benefit.