Medical Cannabis & Chronic Pain
November 21, 2017 | Posted in: Chronic Illness and Pain
Medical Cannabis can remedy chronic physical pain as well as its accompanying side effects that many common painkillers, particularly opiates, do not help or even address.
More than 100 million Americans, or roughly one-third of our population, experience chronic pain. If you experience pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks, you are among this group. Normally your body sends acute, sudden pain signals to your brain following injury to tell you something is wrong. Chronic pain, however, lasts much longer, sometimes with no apparent cause.
Pain is not a one way street. Along with pain, people experience side effects in addition to their pain or because of it. Pain gets in life’s way. Doing simple tasks like fixing breakfast may be near impossible because of pain. However, most pharmaceutical remedies, like opiates, only treat pain itself, accompanied by many adverse side effects. Medical cannabis treats pain in conjunction with treating side effects of pain that opiates can’t or don’t address.
Medical Cannabis & Chronic Pain
The Endocannabinoid System
Medical cannabis has proven efficacy when it comes to relieving chronic pain. Over the course of a Harvard led review of 28 studies, cannabis was found to have substantial benefits for those suffering from chronic pain. You can thank your body’s Endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters that your body produces. They are a natural way your body reduces inflammation. When you consume cannabis, you essentially block endocannabinoids from reuptake into the cell body. When reuptake happens the cannabinoid goes away from the synapse, and so does its abilities to lower inflammation. By ingesting cannabis you keep these neurotransmitters doing their jobs, which results in pain relief.
There are quite a bit of options out there for pain relief, the most popular being behind the counter opioids like oxycontin, percocet, and others. Opioid pain relievers efficacy isn’t in question, but they have many side effects, can be addictive, and can cause overdose. On the other hand, users can’t become physically addicted to medical cannabis, there aren’t severe withdrawal pains like those that accompany synthetic opiates, and no one has ever overdosed on medical cannabis.
Medical Cannabis Does What Opioids Cannot
Opioids have one system of action: they block pain signals in the brain by inhibiting reuptake of feel good neurotransmitters like endorphins. Medical cannabis, similarly, blocks reuptake of endocannabinoids, the bodies natural pain reliever. The similarities end here, however. Opiates simply mask the pain signals from being received, whereas cannabis masks the pain signals and helps to actively lower inflammation. Opioids have one system of action whereas medical cannabis contains multiple cannabinoids like CBD, CBC, CBN, and THC that work alongside the effects of the endocannabinoid system to lower inflammation and relax damaged body tissues.
Secondary Chronic Pain Symptoms & Medical Cannabis
There are other symptoms of chronic pain besides just the pain itself. Often people experiencing chronic pain have sleep problems, activity withdrawal, lowered immune system, and problems with mood like irritability, depression, and stress. For the chronic pain patient, pain relief isn’t a one step solution, and in fact many opiates exacerbate the user’s problems with side effects. Medical cannabis, on the other hand, has benefits with regard to sleep, has been shown to help stimulate physical and mental activity, can improve one’s immune system, and improve mood.
Medical Cannabis and Opioid Cessation
Sometimes you have to dance with the devil. Since medical cannabis and opioids both act in similar ways, blocking reuptake of feel good chemicals, researchers found that using cannabis alongside current opioid treatment could 1) improve opioids overall efficacy and 2) reduce the needed dose of opioid. Moreover, because the user uses medical cannabis alongside opioids, the same type of tolerance for the opioid doesn’t develop as it would if they took opioids alone. If no tolerance builds up, then no addiction can stake its neurological claim. Essentially medical cannabis can help wean those addicted or dependent upon opioids off of the drugs while still providing the pain relief the drugs were used for in the first place.
CBD & Opioid Cessation
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the many cannabinoids that make up cannabis. CBD can fight addiction. Two studies that examined animals, and humans found that CBD has properties that reduce opioid cravings. Moreover, isolated CBD did not cause dependency or lead to addiction. The key here is that medical cannabis, and CBD especially, does not simply take the role of whatever the user was dependent on, but actually help end their dependence without creating another one.
For many who experience chronic pain, it may seem like there is no end to their addiction in sight. CBD, and medical cannabis in general, can be a guiding light on their road to recovery and independence from opioids. Did medical cannabis help your chronic pain? Comment below!
This website is informational and cannot diagnose or treat illness or disease. Medical marijuana should be used under the direction of a licensed healthcare provider. This post was created in partnership with Theory Wellness.
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