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Adv Psychosom Med. 2011;30:125-38. doi: 10.1159/000324070. Epub 2011 Apr 19.

Cannabinoids for pain management.

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Pain Management Division, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 21029, USA.


Cannabinoids have been used for thousands of years to provide relief from suffering, but only recently have they been critically evaluated in clinical trials. This review provides an in-depth examination of the evidence supporting cannabinoids in various pain states, along with an overview of potential adverse effects. In summary, there is strong evidence for a moderate analgesic effect in peripheral neuropathic and central pain conditions, and conflicting evidence for their use in nociceptive pain. For spasticity, most controlled studies demonstrate significant improvement. Adverse effects are not uncommon with cannabinoids, though most are not serious and self-limiting. In view of the limited effect size and low but not inconsequential risk of serious adverse events, cannabinoids should be employed as analgesics only when safer and more effective medication trials have failed, or as part of a multimodal treatment regimen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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