Chronic Pain Clinical and Prescriptive Practices in the Cannabis Era

Jonathan H. Aebischer, Nathan F. Dieckmann, Kim D. Jones, Amanda W. St John

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: To explore how health care providers in the United States are adapting clinical recommendations and prescriptive practices in response to patient use of medical cannabis (MC) for chronic pain symptoms. Design: Literature searches queried MeSH/Subject terms “chronic pain,” “clinician,” “cannabis,” and Boolean text words “practice” and “analgesics” in EBSCOHost, EMBASE, PubMed, and Scopus, published 2010-2021 in the United States. Twenty-one primary, peer-reviewed studies met criteria. Methods: Studies are synthesized under major headings: recommending MC for chronic pain; MC and prescription opioids; and harm reduction of MC. Results: MC is increasingly utilized by patients for chronic pain symptoms. Clinical recommendations for or against MC are influenced by scopes of practice, state or federal laws, institutional policies, education, potential patient harm (or indirect harm of others), and perceived confidence. Epidemiologic and cohort studies show downward trajectories of opioid prescribing and consumption in states with legal cannabis. However, clinicians’ recommendations and prescription practices are nonuniform. Impacts of cannabis laws are clear between nongovernmental and governmental institutions. Strategies addressing MC and opioid use include frequent visits, and, to reduce harm, suggesting alternative therapies and treating substance use disorders. Conclusions: MC use for chronic pain is increasing with cannabis legalization. Provider practices are heterogenous, demonstrating a balance of treating chronic pain using available evidence, while being aware of potential harms associated with MC and opioids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-121
Number of pages13
JournalPain Management Nursing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Cannabis
  • Chronic pain
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Opioids
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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