Cannabinoids come from the cannabis (marijuana) plant. They’re sometimes used in medicines to treat different health conditions. The cannabis plant can also be used as a medicine when it’s smoked, vapourized, eaten, or made into a cream.
There isn’t a lot of research that looks at how cannabinoids help manage long-lasting (chronic) pain. We know there are receptors in our body that work with cannabinoids. We also know that our body makes natural cannabinoids. What we don’t fully understand is exactly what they do or how to use them to help manage pain.
We know that cannabinoids can help you feel less sick to your stomach (nausea) and help prevent you from throwing up (vomiting). We think they may also help you sleep better. There are a few studies that suggest they might help some kinds of nerve pain.
Most experts say that cannabinoids should only be used as a last option to manage pain, after you’ve tried most other kinds of pain medicine.
No pain medicine can get rid of all chronic pain. When you use cannabinoids for chronic pain, the goal is to lessen your pain enough so it’s easier for you to do your day-to-day activities.
Cannabinoids are pills that you can get from the pharmacy. You can also get cannabinoids in the form of plants, herbs, or oils from licensed cannabis producers or specialized stores.
No matter what form you use, cannabinoids have some possible side effects. Possible side effects include:
There isn’t enough research to know all of the possible side effects and long-term effects of using cannabis.
Do not take cannabinoids if you’re pregnant or have:
Cannabinoids can interact with other medicines. Please check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist to make sure it’s safe for you to take them.
Cannabinoids can interact with the following medicines:
While healthcare providers don’t prescribe cannabis, they can sign an authorization form that allows you to buy cannabis directly from a licensed producer. It means you can also grow your own small supply.
You can also buy cannabis directly from specialized stores. You don’t need an authorization form signed by your healthcare provider to buy cannabis from a specialized store.
More research needs to be done to make sure cannabinoids are a safe and useful way to manage chronic pain before they are recommended for medical use.
The Health Canada website has information about the rules and regulations for using medical cannabis.
Current as of: January 5, 2021
Author: Chronic Pain Program, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.