Objective: To determine whether the use of cannabis improves pain control and/or reduces the amounts of opioids needed to control pain in adults with chronic pain.

Methods: A systematic literature review of research conducted from the past five years. Five databases were searched, resulting in 14 peer-reviewed articles relevant to the objective.

Results: The majority of the literature reviewed demonstrated the use of cannabis by adults with chronic pain resulted in better pain control and/or fewer opioids required to control pain in this population. The two articles which contradicted these findings only evaluated illicit, not medical, cannabis use by individuals with chronic pain.

Conclusions: Cannabis should be considered as an alternative or adjunct to opioid therapy in adults with chronic pain. Changes in patient and provider education about cannabis as a therapy for chronic pain are necessary. The classification of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government complicates research, public perception, and patient access and should be re-evaluated. Further research is indicated in determining the specific types, strains, and methods of ingestion that are most effective in this population; the sub-types of pain that are improved with cannabis; what the adverse effects of cannabis use in this population are; and what barriers exist for providers in recommending cannabis as a treatment option. Evidence from RCTs, particularly comparing cannabis to opioids, is lacking yet difficult to obtain due to federal and ethical limitations.


Gwen Verchota

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)


School of Nursing


Allied Health and Nursing



Rights Statement

In Copyright