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Pain Research and Management
Volume 10 (2005), Suppl A, Pages 38A-43A

Addiction and Pain Medicine

Douglas Gourlay

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2005 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The adequate cotreatment of chronic pain and addiction disorders is a complex and challenging problem for health care professionals. There is great potential for cannabinoids in the treatment of pain; however, the increasing prevalence of recreational cannabis use has led to a considerable increase in the number of people seeking treatment for cannabis use disorders. Evidence that cannabis abuse liability is higher than previously thought suggests that individuals with a history of substance abuse may be at an increased risk after taking cannabinoids, even for medicinal purposes. Smoked cannabis is significantly more reinforcing than other cannabinoid administration methods. In addition, it is clear that the smoked route of cannabis delivery is associated with a number of adverse health consequences. Thus, there is a need for pharmaceutical-grade products of known purity and concentration using delivery systems optimized for safety. Another factor that needs to be considered when assessing the practicality of prescribing medicinal cannabinoids is the difficulty in differentiating illicit from prescribed cannabinoids in urine drug testing. Overall, a thorough assessment of the risk/benefit profile of cannabinoids as they relate to a patient’s substance abuse history is suggested.