Understanding how people with spinal cord injury use cannabis to manage pain – Outline of findings


Dr Johnny Bourke, PhD 
Disability and PLEx Research Lead, Burwood Academy of Independent Living


Thursday 15th August , 2019

Burwood Hospital

Peer group 15Aug19

Severe chronic pain is a common and debilitating secondary complication of spinal cord injury. There is a growing body of research examining the use of cannabinoids as a treatment for pain in chronic non-cancer conditions. With the New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis Scheme commencing in 2020, it is critical that clinicians, researchers, and people with spinal cord injury understand the benefits, and risks, of using cannabis to manage pain.

In this presentation, Dr Bourke discussed the findings of a study which explored the experience of individuals with spinal cord injury who choose to use cannabis to manage their pain. Eight people took part and findings suggest cannabis was used when other pain management strategies had been ineffective, and that cannabis enabled increased social and community participation without the drowsiness of traditional prescribed pain medication. Participants also reported they were seeking pain alleviating effects of cannabis, while actively avoiding the psychotropic effects (the ‘high’) they know it could cause. Despite the positive aspects participants were concerned about the irregularity of supply and inconsistent dosage.

Thank you to the Cake Eating Company for the amazing cake!

Peer group cake

Resources available:

Presentation slides

Video of presentation: