Humphreys K, Saitz R. Should physicians recommend replacing opioids with cannabis? (Viewpoint) JAMA 2019;321(7):639-640

Why was this study conducted?

The article is an editorial on the safety and efficacy of treating people with chronic pain or addiction with medical cannabis.  Based on some recent systematic reviews, they conclude the evidence that cannabis can alleviate pain is weak for neuropathic pain and insufficient for other types of pain. In addition, they state there is no evidence from prospective studies that cannabis can treat opioid use disorder. They also summarize the risks of medical cannabis.

What does this study add?

Many doctors and patients are interested in determining whether cannabis can be used as a treatment for pain or opioid addiction. This article is a short summary of some of the issues that need to be considered when considering medical cannabis.

Is there anything else I should know?

The authors raise interesting points about some of the research that will be needed before cannabis has the same body of evidence as most modern medications.  However, the article is not a comprehensive, systematic review of a large body of literature (a total of 9 articles are cited). It is, as described, an editorial or point or view, rather than a systematic review of the literature.


Author Details

The latest scientific evidence on this topic was reviewed by the Centre's leadership team. This research summary is written by Corinne Hodgson, DHealth, assessed for accuracy by Co-Director Dr. James MacKillop, PhD, an expert in addictions and mental health research. There are no conflicts of interest. Questions regarding this piece should be directed to Dr. James MacKillop (jmackill@mcmaster.ca).