Cannabis for Pain Management
17 Sep 2019
For thousands of years, humans have used cannabis in its various forms for a wide range of reasons. This includes use as a construction material, a ritual tool, a medication, and even a possible cure for diseases, including cancer and more. One of the most purposeful reasons it’s been around is the long-cherished link between cannabis and pain management.
Humans have consumed cannabis over many years to manage pain and suffering. Evidence of cannabis as a medication exists dating back thousands of years from various places around the world. Medical marijuana is certainly nothing new.
What is new, however, is what we have learned about the marijuana plant itself over the last few decades. We’ve been able to experience many advances leading to an explosion in the field of medical cannabis since.
In today’s world, we have a far wider range of medicinal products available to us now than ever before. Today, Cannabis is an ever more valid form of pain management for people around the world.
Evidence of cannabis as a medication exists dating back thousands of years from various places around the world. Medical marijuana is nothing new.
What about my prescription pain killers?
For many people, marijuana and its users are a taboo, a shameful niche. It’s something to be given its distance or risk very regrettable side effects and life-ruining events.
However, as we are learning, this could not be farther from the truth! In fact, you may be surprised as to the average medical marijuana user. From cancer patients and grandparents to anxious soccer moms and busy corporate moguls. However, among users, chronic pain sufferers constitute some of the highest percentages around the world.
It’s been known anecdotally. About 10% to 15% of patients attending a chronic pain clinic use cannabis as part of their pain [control] strategy. – Researcher Mark Ware, MD, assistant professor of anesthesia and family medicine at McGill University in Montreal.
So why is this? For many, it’s to get away from the list of prescriptions that their doctor has given them. They may feel they’d rather switch to something else. Those who commonly fall into this category are often chronic pain sufferers.
A better choice
Getting away from what can be a host of very dangerous, and powerful opioids can be a better choice for many individuals. According to leafly.com, “…many treatment options are only nominally effective. Worse, commonly prescribed drugs like opioids are highly addictive and potentially toxic; 28,000 people died (according to the CDC) from an opioid overdose in 2014, more than any other year in history.”
Aside from the risks associated with common pain killers such as Vicodin or Percocet, they are often accompanied by many unpleasant side effects. “Common side effects of opioid administration include sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression.”
According to NCBI.NIH.gov, marijuana’s side effects are mild in comparison: “altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors), altered sense of time, changes in mood, impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, impaired memory”. To many, these side effects coupled with the possible cannabis’ beneficial effects far outweigh the risks of opioid pain relievers.
Considering that there are no recorded deaths due to a marijuana overdose, the validity of cannabis as a treatment for those with long term pain conditions increases as we continue to learn.
In fact, the average medical marijuana user varies – from cancer patients and grandparents to anxious soccer moms and busy corporate moguls.
Benefits of Medical Cannabis vs. Traditional Pain Management
According to various studies around the world, Marijuana holds a great deal of potential to be the next big advancement in the field of pain management. As anyone familiar with chronic pain conditions is familiar with, one of the main obstacles is finding a long term way to help the individual cope with or “manage” the pain.
Usually, patients will use a combination of medications, physical therapy, pain psychology, etc. “If there is a twenty percent improvement in the pain, then we consider it a success,” says clinical pharmacist Mahshid Seyedkazemi.
Unfortunately, many of these conditions used to and in some places still are treated with narcotic pain relievers such as opioids. These medications only cover up the symptoms and do not actually help relieve them. Along with that, it is often the case that narcotic pain killers bring with them many unpleasant side effects. Most especially, an incredibly high chance of addiction and dependency.
The more you use these drugs, the less effective they become, and the more you need even more of them. It becomes a vicious cycle that far too many people unfortunately fall into. To many, cannabis is the answer to this. People can use it on a long term basis with few negative long term side effects. There’s evidence of causing addiction and cannabis comes in a wide variety of consumption methods. According to a study published in the Journal of Pain, they found the following:
- Cannabis use was associated with 64% lower opioid use in patients with chronic pain.
- It was also associated with a better quality of life in patients with chronic pain.
- Lastly, cannabis use was associated with fewer medication side effects and medications used.
“We are learning that the higher the dose of opioids people are taking, the higher the risk of death from overdose,” said Dr. Daniel Clauw, one of the main researchers for the study, and a professor of pain management anesthesiology at the University of Michigan Medical School. “[The] magnitude of reduction in our study is significant enough to affect an individual’s risk of accidental death from overdose.” she went on to say.
This is by far not the only study, or evidence purporting such information and similar results, and if true, and can be backed up further, cannabis could truly play a role in improving the lives of chronic pain sufferers.
The more you use these drugs, the less effective they become, and the more you need them. It becomes a vicious cycle that far too many people unfortunately fall into. To many, cannabis is the answer to this.
Of course, as with anything, there are pros and cons, challenges and obstacles to using medical cannabis to replace opioid pain relievers in chronic pain patients. From the cost, access, and legality, committing to a cannabis regime for your health needs may be in fact quite difficult depending on where you are.
While cannabis is becoming a more and more accepted substance, be it for recreational or medical use around the world, many people can still find themselves incarcerated for the rest of their lives for possession of the plant. It all depends on where one is located and the laws that they must abide by.
Social stigma is also, of course, something to keep in consideration. Certain side effects, albeit short term, may be unpleasant to some users: dry mouth and eyes, paranoia, short term memory loss, as well as other intensified feelings and sensations, etc. It is important to remember that you are an individual, and your conditions will require individualized care and treatment. Do what is right for you!
Marijuana as a treatment for our many ailments is not something new. As we learn more and become more accustomed to the science behind cannabis, we continue to see how perhaps the stigma of the last few decades has been wrong. Perhaps cannabis has a role to play in the future of medicine and medical research.
So far, studies have been promising. Especially in terms of the benefits for those who suffer from churn pain conditions. From here, it seems that medical marijuana could be a valuable and effective method of pain management. Please keep in mind that it is of paramount importance that you discuss any medical decisions or changes with your medical professionals. But what does the future hold for Medical Marijuana? Only time will tell.
- What Are the Best Cannabis Strains for Pain? | Leafly
- Is Cannabis Better for Chronic Pain Than Opioids? | Leafly
- Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain – Pain Management Center – Everyday Health
- Can cannabis relieve pain and other ailments? | Life and style | The Guardian
- NFL Players Association to Study Marijuana for Pain-Management – Rolling Stone
- NFL players fight pain with medical marijuana: ‘Managing it with pills was slowly killing me’ – The Washington Post
- Medical marijuana and pain management – ScienceDirect
- Study: Vaping Marijuana Effective for Pain Management – High Times
- Medical Cannabis Use Is Associated With Decreased Opiate Medication Use in a Retrospective Cross-Sectional Survey of Patients With Chronic Pain – ScienceDirect
- In Pain? Try Using Medical Marijuana for Pain Relief and Management