Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)


Physician Assistant Studies

First Advisor

Julie Solberg


adverse effects; cannabinoid addiction; cannabinoids; chronic pain; efficacy; medical marijuana; pain management


In 1996, the state of California was the first in the union to allow for the use of medical marijuana. Since then, 28 more states have enacted similar laws (National Conference of State Legislatures, [NCSL], 2017). With the ever-growing opiate problem that has now been classified as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical marijuana could be a viable alternative to this problem. As of 2014, the CDC reported opioid deaths were up 369%, which is more than 91 deaths per day from overdose (Centers for Disease Control, [CDC], 2017). The purpose of this study is to compare medical marijuana to opiates in safety and addiction; in addition, the efficacy of using cannabis as an alternative for individuals who deal with chronic pain will be investigated. A literature review was conducted to find systematic reviews, meta-analyses and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated medical marijuana and opiates for the treatment of chronic pain. Four databases were surveyed with multiple sources found in CINAHL, Cochrane Database, PubMed and PsycINFO. Current literature shows that cannabinoids may provide potential benefit with short-term use, but not without possible adverse effects. With the current lack of research on long-term treatment of chronic pain with cannabinoids, additional research needs to be conducted to further understand the potential adverse effects associated with cannabinoid use.