Cannabis Linked to 'Significant' And 'Sustained' Health Improvements

Liz Filmer
05 Jun 2023

The use of medical marijuana is linked with "significant improvements" in the quality of life for those with chronic pain and insomnia. Furthermore, those effects are "largely sustained" over time. This is per a new American Medical Association (AMA) study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Health Policy.

Investigators carried out a retrospective case series investigation that involved 3,148 people in Australia who used prescription medical cannabis for the treatment of specifically qualified conditions.

For all eight well-being markers tested, cannabis appeared to assist, with adverse side effects classed as "rarely serious."

Patients were invited to rank their wellness over eight categories on a scale ranging from 0-100 at various stages of treatment. Those categories were 

  • general health
  • body pain
  • physical functioning
  • physical limitations
  • mental health
  • emotional limitations
  • social functioning
  • vitality

After distributing the survey to the patients roughly every 45 days, for 15 follow-ups, the study found that those consuming cannabis reported average improvements of 6.6-18.31 points on that 100-point scale, depending on the category.

"These findings suggest that medical cannabis treatment may be linked to improved health-related quality of life among patients with various health conditions. In addition, patients using medical cannabis reported improved health-related quality of life, mostly sustained over time." -Researchers wrote.

The most common conditions for which cannabis was prescribed were 

  • non-cancer chronic pain (68.6 per cent)
  • cancer-related pain (6.0 per cent)
  • insomnia (4.8 per cent) 
  • anxiety (4.2 per cent)

The report says, "The use of cannabis as a medicine is becoming increasingly dominant. Given the various conditions being treated with medical cannabis and the vast array of products and dose forms available, clinical evidence incorporating patient-reported outcomes may help determine safety and efficacy."  

The doses, consumption methods, and strains of cannabis products patients used differed immensely; however, the estimated effects remained very similar.

"This study suggests a favourable association between medical cannabis and the quality of life among patients with diverse conditions. However, clinical evidence for cannabinoid efficacy remains limited, and further high-quality trials are required." the study concludes.

This is just the most recent in a long list of studies that support the therapeutic potential of cannabis. 

Another recent analysis from the University of Colorado found that consistent cannabis use is linked to enhanced cognition and diminished pain among cancer patients and those receiving chemotherapy.

A separate 2023 AMA study found that chronic pain patients who used medical cannabis for over a month saw considerable reductions in prescribed opioids.

AMA also published research in late 2022 that connected state cannabis legalisation with reducing opioid prescribing for certain cancer patients. In addition, numerous studies have linked cannabis legalisation and self-reported cannabis use to a reduction in opioid prescribing and deaths from overdose.

State-level marijuana legalisation is also linked with substantial reductions in prescribing the distinct opioid codeine, according to another recent investigation that leverages data direct from the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Liz Filmer