Pain is a global phenomenon encompassing many subtypes that include neuropathic, musculoskeletal, acute postoperative, cancer, and geriatric pain. Traditionally, opioids have been a mainstay pharmacological agent for managing many types of pain. However, opioids have been a subject of controversy with increased addiction, fatality rates, and cost burden on the US healthcare system. Cannabinoids have emerged as a potentially favorable alternative or adjunctive treatment for various types of acute and chronic pain. This narrative review seeks to describe the efficacy, risks, and benefits of cannabinoids as an adjunct or even potential replacement for opioids in the treatment of various subtypes of pain.
Cannabis sativa has long been known to affect numerous biological activities. Although plant extracts, purified cannabinoids, or synthetic cannabinoid analogs have shown therapeutic potential in pain, inflammation, seizure disorders, appetite stimulation, muscle spasticity, and treatment of nausea/vomiting, the underlying mechanisms of action remain ill-defined.