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How Does Cannabis Relieve Chronic Pain?

Interest in medical marijuana or cannabis has increased tremendously in the past couple of years, thanks in large part to widening acceptance of this alternative treatment. This herb is often used in addressing a host of diseases as well as physical and mental conditions—many of which have eluded effective treatment in the traditional medical and pharmaceutical field.

Many patients with common symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia, to those with more serious illnesses such as cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s have reported astounding positive results from taking medical marijuana or cannabis. Any unpleasant feelings and physical conditions that they used to endure go away or are greatly reduced, leading to an overall feeling of good health and well-being. 

Marijuana for Chronic Pain

One of the areas of interest and further study regarding the therapeutic properties of marijuana is in treating chronic pain. This is a physical condition where an individual endures constant and substantial pain in certain parts of or all throughout the body. Chronic pain does not have a clear or single cause that can be pinpointed, unlike acute pain which is a sudden and temporary onset of pain that signals the body of danger or injury.

Chronic pain is also usually symptomatic of other major diseases or physical conditions such as cancer, HIV infection, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries, among others. Based on a survey of chronic pain sufferers by the National Institute of Health Statistics, the condition usually falls in any of these 4 categories: lower back pain, migraine or headaches, neck pain, and facial pain.

Chronic pain is a debilitating condition because a person lives in constant discomfort, leading to less productivity and a compromised quality of life. It can persist from weeks up to months and even years, without any end in sight. That is why patients who have chronic pain are among the most enthusiastic to try out alternative treatments such as medical marijuana or cannabis, and they are pleasantly surprised to discover favorable outcome from it. They are glad to find little to no side effects of marijuana compared to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or traditional medication for chronic pain.

Some studies have reported that constant use of NSAIDs may increase the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions. Apart from NSAIDs, the usual course of treatment for chronic pain include other types of analgesics, opioids, and even anticonvulsants and antidepressants. The downside of pharmaceutical medication is that some of them cause addiction and increasing tolerance, which means that users need increasing dosages to achieve the same level of relief that they have been experiencing. The increasing appeal of medical marijuana lies in the fact that it has little to no side effects compared to such well-known pharmaceutical approaches to chronic pain management.

Research And Studies Show That Cannabis May Be Able To Help With Chronic Pain.

How Marijuana Works on Chronic Pain

The key to understanding how cannabis seems to relieve chronic pain is in the plant’s chemical composition. Substances called cannabinoids are a valuable component of the marijuana or cannabis plant. These are particularly found in the plant’s flowers and buds. Studies and research have led to the discovery of cannabinoids that solve chronic pain, making medical marijuana or cannabis extremely useful and beneficial for chronic pain sufferers.

Cannabinoids are also naturally found in the human body. In fact, the endocannabinoid system or ECS is closely linked with the nervous system of the body, and it is responsible for many functions and conditions such as mood, memory, and pain. Thus, taking in phytocannabinoids (those found in plants such as marijuana or cannabis) enhances the body’s own ECS and therefore helps achieve positive physical effects and well-being.

There are actually hundreds of cannabinoids, but those of particular interest to human are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These two have profound effect on a lot of human diseases and medical conditions. THC is largely responsible for the famous “high” or psychoactive effects of marijuana, while CBD is more therapeutic in nature. THC and CBD must bind with the cannabinoid receptors in the body and produce an analgesic effect to deal with chronic pain.

In laboratory studies with rats, CBD is able to specifically target the brain’s RVM (rostral ventromedial medulla), which is responsible for neuropathic pain. The positive effects of THC for neuropathic pain have also been observed in research, particularly in being able to decrease inflammation — a symptom related to chronic pain especially in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. THC blocks the cannabinoid receptors of the body and prevent pain from occurring. 

Continuing Research on Marijuana for Chronic Pain

The scientific and academic community is still constantly doing research, studies, and experiments on the effects of marijuana or cannabis on human diseases. There is still a lack of substantial and institutionalized data on the matter, but with the numerous personal anecdotes of patients who have tried medical marijuana, the proposition is compelling indeed. A promising study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology has helped establish the use of cannabinoids for non-cancer pain with 22 trials on a group of 766 patients.

They were asked to smoke cannabis or given liquid cannabis products such as oromucosal extracts, as well as synthetic THC drugs. The study showed that 18 out of the 22 trials illustrated an analgesic effect of marijuana on those who suffered neuropathic pain, as well as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other chronic muscular pain or migraine headaches. The research also noted that the patients did not report any major side effects in connection to their marijuana use.

Another study published in the Hawaii Journal of Medicine and Public Health focused on the effects of cannabis on chronic pain, with astounding and encouraging results. A survey was done over the course of several months among a hundred patients who have been taking medical marijuana for chronic pain for at least a year. It was found that the average reported pain relief using medical cannabis was indeed significant. Whereas their pain level before treatment was at an average of 7.8 on a scale of 0 to 10, post-treatment pain was pegged at an average of 2.8 only—illustrating a reported average improvement of as much as 5 points, translating to around 65% average pain reduction.

Cannabis for Human Diseases

While such results seem revolutionary especially in this day and age when millions of people suffer from chronic pain—as many as 116 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Health—the truth is that marijuana or cannabis has been known and employed for its analgesic properties by ancient civilizations. Marijuana consumption has been recorded in societies and cultures in China, the Middle East, ancient Rome and Greece, and even North America as far back as 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.

It was only in recent modern history that marijuana took on a bad reputation. Thankfully, people are looking past that and are focusing more on the traditional therapeutic effects and positive benefits of marijuana. Modern science is also helping doctors understand better how marijuana or cannabis actually works, thus allowing them to use and develop it in more ways for the benefit of medical patients.

In the US, 29 states including the District of Columbia have already legislated the purchase, possession, and use of medical marijuana in varying degrees, joining a growing list of countries all over the world who have recognized the medicinal properties of cannabis. These are Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. At present, Australia is also developing and passing laws that allow the possession and use of medical marijuana or cannabis.

Find Respite From Intense And Extreme Pain: This Is SOOTHE.

Medical Marijuana Products for Chronic Pain

Such moves have led to an explosion of the medical marijuana market especially in the United States, where there are a lot of products available for patients. Medical cannabis comes in many forms and is retailed in many different outlets. It is not difficult to purchase medical marijuana or to learn more about it on the Internet, as there are a lot of sellers who offer a wide variety of medical marijuana or medical cannabis products. 

The way that medical marijuana is ingested or taken into the body has a particular effect as well, so users have to choose which method works best for them. Smoking or applying heat to marijuana, for instance, activates the THC component of the plant and primarily causes a high. Liquid marijuana products, meanwhile, such as tinctures and cannabis oil for pain relief are preferred by many users because they can be calibrated carefully. Cannabis oil can also be ingested more conveniently and incorporated into daily meals, such as salads, soups, and other drinks like tea.

Taking in marijuana through food is also a potent way to enjoy its effects, because it is directly metabolized by the liver. Liquid marijuana products such as cannabis oil can even be placed directly under the tongue (called sublingual application) for direct and immediate relief. The benefits are also more long-lasting. THC is not completely harmful as some patients benefit from calmness and well-being, given the proper psychoactive dose. Thus, many medical marijuana products in the market today are usually concocted with a balance of THC and CBD, in order to cover a wide range of diseases and conditions. Medical marijuana can also be processed into traditional pharmaceutical form like tablets, pills, patches, and even suppositories. Cannabinoids can also be synthesized in the laboratory and sold just like the usual pharmaceutical drugs or medicine.

As with any other healthcare products, patients should be careful in choosing medical marijuana products to buy. Not all products on the market may genuinely contain marijuana or cannabis. Some products may also be of substandard quality and manufactured with harmful substances. Cannabis oil, for instance, is produced by distilling the plant flowers and buds with a solvent, which is usually alcohol. Some unscrupulous manufacturers may cut corners and use chemicals and solvents that are not meant for human consumption. It would be wise to purchase only from reputable sellers and to go with products such as certified organic marijuana, which means that the plants have been grown without pesticides or chemicals. If a marijuana plant has been applied with pesticide, the residue of such chemicals may wind up in the medical marijuana product even after processing.

Medical Marijuana and Society

Medical marijuana users would be the first people to advocate for responsible and ethical use of medical cannabis, in order for it to become more accepted by society. It is important to study the law carefully and determine the parameters of medical marijuana use, purchases, and possession in each particular state. Medical marijuana is currently not yet covered by health insurance especially those of the government such as Medicard and Medicaid, and thus this is an area that medical marijuana advocates are strongly working on.

While patients claim that medical cannabis treatment is relatively more affordable than conventional medication, inclusion of medical marijuana in health insurance would make it even more accessible and affordable especially for the most underserved sectors of society. Medical marijuana has also been shown to have little to no side effects compared to treatments like chemotherapy, thus making it very appealing for those under palliative care. Medical marijuana proponents are continuously highlighting these benefits in the hopes that people may be more open-minded about the drug, which is traditionally known as a controlled and illegal substance.

Other areas of advancement in the field of medical marijuana include its use for children who have similar dreaded diseases, and the incorporation of medical marijuana in mainstream healthfood products such as supplements, which would make it more accessible to all. By many indications, marijuana seems to indeed be a “miracle cure,” and while the global medical community has yet to formally recognize this, medical marijuana users are relentless in their quest to have more people understand and appreciate medical cannabis rather than shun it.