100K Australians were prescribed plant-based medicine for chronic pain in 2022. Did it work?

There’s been a dramatic increase in the number of prescriptions issued for medicinal cannabis in the past two years. There have been 295,515 prescriptions for medicinal cannabis issued since 2020, compared with just 1,011 issued between 2016 and 2019.

Out of these, more than 100,000 scripts were written for chronic pain alone within the last year.

Plant-based medicine for chronic pain: Pain relief or placebo

Chronic pain is a common condition in Australia, especially in those aged 45 and older. About one in five people in this age group live with ongoing pain that can be quite severe and affect their daily life. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 67% more people are visiting their general practitioner (GP) seeking help for chronic pain as of 2020.

New research published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) tried to answer the question “Does plant-based medicine actually help manage chronic pain or is it a placebo effect?”.

The study included a total of 1,459 people, most of whom had neuropathic pain or pain from multiple sclerosis. The products and the placebos were given as a pill, spray, oil, or smoke or vapor. The researchers found that participants receiving active treatment and participants receiving placebos reported similar levels of pain relief.

According to their findings, “Placebo contributes significantly to pain reduction seen in cannabinoid clinical trials. The positive media attention and wide dissemination may uphold high expectations and shape placebo responses in future trials, which has the potential to affect the outcome of clinical trials, regulatory decisions, clinical practice, and ultimately patient access to cannabinoids for pain relief.”

In a different peer-reviewed study published in JAMA, over 3000 patients were examined. Most of them were dealing with chronic pain, but some were also receiving treatment for cancer pain, insomnia and anxiety.

The researchers discovered that after using plant-based medicine, people reported significant improvements in eight aspects of their health-related quality of life. They felt better in areas like pain, emotions and with their social life.

Scientists at the University of Sydney are currently undertaking a trial that’s assessing the effectiveness of plant-based medicine for spinal cord injury-induced chronic pain. “If effective, this trial will provide gold-standard evidence to support the use of CBD for patients with neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury. It can also help to inform and ultimately change policy surrounding the prescription of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of neuropathic pain and improve patient access.” said Professor Iain McGregor, from University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics.

Trials and tribulations 

Therefore, there remain strong opinions on both sides about whether there is enough evidence for the effectiveness of cannabis in treating pain.

Supporters argue that the fact that humans have been using it for therapeutic reasons for thousands of years and that the millions of people currently using it for pain relief is clear proof of its beneficial effects. 

Others say that it isn’t a wonder drug. It’s just another medicine. It doesn’t help everybody. But it is still very, very useful. 

The fact that cannabis research is still effectively in its infancy leaves significant room for this for debate to continue.  

In the depths of this debate, medical practitioners are adopting a range of positions, all the way from “yes way” to “no way”, and everything in between. A view increasingly held by even some conservative medical practitioners is that in the absence of another pain relief solution that is effective, on balance, it is certainly worth a try.

In conclusion

Plant-based medicine still holds promise in the treatment of chronic pain. To combat this dearth of data, several studies are being conducted to find conclusive evidence to support the rising tide of anecdotal evidence. 

If you are exploring plant-based medicine for your chronic pain, you should talk to your medical practitioner. If you would like to learn more about plant-based medicine, you can also speak to our pharmacists. They are extensively trained in the different plant-based medicines available, including oils, capsules, flowers and in other forms.

It is crucial to emphasise that plant-based medicines should always be used under the guidance and supervision of healthcare professionals who are well-versed in its potential benefits, risks, and appropriate dosing. Additionally, legal and regulatory considerations regarding the use of medicinal cannabis vary across jurisdictions, and compliance with Australian state laws is essential.

Disclaimer: Heathershaw’s Compounding Pharmacy does not promote the use of plant-based medicines for all patients. Our pharmacists will refer you to an affiliated doctor or clinic who may further assess your clinical requirements. For medical advice, speak to your general practitioner. Plant-based medicines in Australia are accessed via the Special Access Scheme or Authorised Prescriber Scheme and are regulated by the TGA.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *