Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)


Physician Assistant Studies

First Advisor

Daryl Sieg


In light of the current opioid crisis, research is needed to identify alternative treatments for acute and chronic pain. With medical marijuana being made available by rapidly changing state laws, it is prudent to identify what role it may play in pain control. This comprehensive literature review was conducted to determine what is known as to the effectiveness of medical marijuana, cannabis, or cannabinoids for treating acute and chronic pain as compared to prescription opiates. An additional comparison was also made between the addictive properties and adverse effects of medical marijuana and prescription opiates. The final parameter evaluated was the effects of these substances on the individual’s quality of life. This comprehensive literature review revealed there is no use for medical marijuana in an acute pain setting, and in fact it may actually cause harm by making acute pain harder to control. In contrast, according to the current literature, medical marijuana has the potential to play a positive role in the treatment of chronic pain. This review highlights the potential for both substances to have addiction issues to varying degrees, but prescription opiates had a higher incidence of overdose-related deaths than did medical marijuana. When the adverse effects between the substances were compared, memory problems were associated with medical marijuana, especially if use was started in the teenage years, while respiratory depression is closely associated with prescription opiates and could result in death.