Chronic pain sufferers are increasingly opting for alternative medicines such as cannabis. Below, we address six questions patients should know when considering cannabis to fight chronic pain:
Will cannabis help relieve my chronic pain?
A 2010 study found that patients suffering from chronic neuropathic pain who used cannabis with 9.4% THC experienced significant pain reduction, rating their pain at 5.4 out of 11 (11 being the most severe pain). Patients in the placebo group who used cannabis with 0% THC reported a pain level of 6.1. In another study of adults with HIV-associated sensory neuropathy, patients reported a >30% reduction in pain intensity.
Who would benefit from cannabis pain relief?
Anyone with the following conditions may benefit from using cannabis to reduce pain: Cancer, neuropathies, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease, HIV, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Crohn’s Disease, Multiple sclerosis, Chronic Pain, and potentially more. Ongoing research is encouraging in treating military veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and former professional athletes with severe muscle and joint pain, muscle spasms, and concussions.
How does it work? (the science behind it)
Peripheral nerves that detect pain have many receptors for cannabinoids, which block peripheral nerve pain and inflammation. When cannabinoids activate G-protein receptors CB1 and CB2, it triggers the release of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, dopamine, and glutamate, which affect how we feel pain and euphoria. For more details, check out this previous article.
What’s the best way to use cannabis for pain?
Smoking cannabis provides the most immediate pain relief, as the effects are felt practically right away. ‘Cannavaping’ is alleged to be as effective as traditional smoking without smoke inhalation, although conclusive research is not yet available. Other common methods such as edibles, tinctures, transdermal patches, topicals, and suppositories take longer to take effect, ranging from 10 minutes to over an hour.
Will I become addicted to cannabis?
Studies report long-term cannabis use can lead to addiction, though cases of addiction are rare. Statistics show most cannabis addiction stems from use beginning in adolescence and regular use continuing through adulthood. Studies have found that, compared to opioid prescription painkillers, cannabis is exponentially safer and less addictive.
Should I stop taking other pain medications?
It depends. Cannabis may increase the risk of bleeding if you already take medication such as aspirin, blood thinners, antiplatelet or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory. Use caution and consult a medical professional if you’re affected by blood sugar level and low blood pressure. Combining cannabis use with depressant medication such as Valium or codeine can cause an increase in drowsiness, and you should avoid driving or operating machinery. To find out if any of the drugs you are taking have dangerous or unpleasant effects when combined with cannabis, you can look them up in the Cannabis Drug Interactions list.
For more information:
Medical Cannabis clinical review for Chronic Pain – http://cannabisclinicians.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/JAMA-Chronic-Pain-2015.pdf
Methods to consume medical marijuana – http://unitedpatientsgroup.com/resources/methods-of-consumption
Methods of medical marijuana consumption – https://www.harborsidehealthcenter.com/learn/methods-of-cannabis-consumption.html
Medical cannabis therapeutics – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538401/
Cannabis interactions with drugs – http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/marijuana/interactions/hrb-20059701