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Analysis: Medical cannabis users find pain reduction

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Medical cannabis
Medical cannabis shown on the counter of Minnesota Medical Solutions' downtown Minneapolis dispensary.
Tim Nelson | MPR News File

The Minnesota Department of Health says more than 4 in 10 people struggling with difficult-to-control pain of moderate and high levels reported medical cannabis provided significant relief. 

The research looked at results of a standard pain assessment tool completed by more than 2,000 people before and after turning to medical cannabis. The analysis focused on 42 percent of the participants who'd ranked their pain as moderate to high at the beginning of the study. Those people collectively reported a reduction in pain scores of at least 30 percent. That's a threshold considered to be clinically meaningful.

"It's heartening to see that this fairly large proportion achieved that degree of reduction in their pain assessment score," said Dr. Tom Arneson, research manager for the office of medical cannabis.

More than 340 of the participants initially reported use of opioid medications. More than half of them said they reduced or eliminated opioid use after six months of medical cannabis. 

Arneson is calling the research, a good starting point. He said a controlled study, including giving some participants a placebo, is needed.

"We need more research into the potential value of medical cannabis in pain management, especially as our communities grapple with the harmful impacts of opioids and other medications now in use for that purpose," Arneson said.