The pain conditions in which cannabinoids have been shown to be most effective are those caused by damage to the nervous system, either peripheral or central. That can include diabetic neuropathy, post-traumatic pain after surgery and HIV-associated neuropathy in the case of the peripheral system, and multiple sclerosis or a spinal cord injury for the central system.
Patients report a number of effects from cannabis, including improved sleep and help for their anxiety or stress, as well as a reduction in discomfort.
“They tell us, ‘It doesn’t really make my pain go away, but it allows me to focus on something other than the pain,'” explains Ware. “That sounds like, ‘Duh, they’re stoned,’ but these are patients who are trying really hard to function and have normal social and work lives.”
Ware also notes that small studies have linked cannabinoids to helping with chronic pain syndromes, like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritisand cancer — both the pain associated with the disease, and the treatment. But of course, more research is needed, and the drug isn’t for everyone.