Medical Cannabis for Chronic pain.
For thousands of people across South Africa chronic pain can be an incredibly debilitating condition. For many who live with it on a daily or near daily basis, the condition can be so oppressive, it affects other parts of their lives, impacting their mood, health, and overall well-being.
The reduction of chronic pain is one of the most common reasons practitioners prescribe medical cannabis. It has been proven to reduce inflammation, swelling, tension and sore muscles, making it a no brainer for those who suffer from debilitating pain.
If you suffer from severe, chronic pain, you’ve no doubt tried just about every drug and therapy on the market to get some relief. Chronic pain is the name given to any pain that’s lasted for more than 12 weeks.
While many people believe cannabis to be an effective treatment, what does the science say? Is it really more effective and safer than other drugs? Fortunately, when it comes to cannabis and cannabinoid-based formulations, chronic pain is one of the best studied conditions. However, the causes of chronic pain are diverse. Moreover, chronic pain can be nociceptive or neuropathic. Nociceptive pain is caused by tissue damage or inflammation. Neuropathic pain is caused by nervous system damage or malfunction.
Chronic pain is unlike a sore back or twisted knee. Chronic pain is persistent, lasting for weeks or even years, most commonly caused by nerve damage and can leave sufferers feeling helpless.
Chronic pain is a state in which pain persists beyond the usual course of an acute disease or healing of an injury, or that may or may not be associated with an acute or chronic pathologic process that causes continuous or intermittent pain over months or years. Research has shown that medical cannabis for chronic pain can be an effective method of treatment that is far safer than many other options.
Chronic pain is an often-incapacitating condition that affects every aspect of your life. It can make the simplest of activities, such as buttoning your shirt or tying your shoes, a struggle. Over time, the condition takes its toll, and you can find yourself becoming down and depressed due to your constant struggle with your pain.
Severe chronic pain is often treated with opioid narcotics, such as Vicodin and Percocet, and analgesics, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Opiates and narcotics are effective in relieving severe pain, but they are highly addictive and have significant harmful side effects. Analgesics are not addictive but are usually inadequate for reducing or eliminating pain.
Additionally, long-term use of analgesics can develop serious side effects including stomach bleeding, liver damage and kidney damage.
Medical cannabis is an affordable, natural alternative that lacks the side effects found in the medicines traditionally used to treat chronic pain. In 1975, researchers found that THC was an effective pain reliever for cancer patients and found that it lacked the significant or toxic side effects found in traditional medicines. Since then, countless other studies have shown that marijuana safely and effectively treats various types of chronic pain with little to no side effects or risk of dependency.
A new study from Canada followed 215 adult patients from seven different clinics, all of whom suffered from chronic pain not related to cancer. The one-year study provided participants with the option of using flowers, concentrates or edibles, which all contained 12.5% THC. The cannabis group was compared to a control group of 216 patients who did not use cannabis to treat pain but instead stuck to traditional methods. As expected, the cannabis group reported a reduction in pain and an increased quality of life. Surprisingly, though, the cannabis group also reported a decreased sense of anxiety, depression, and fatigue. The cannabis wasn’t just helping their physical pain, it was alleviating every symptom the pain caused, even psychological ones. The cannabis consumers did experience some reported side effects, such as sleeplessness and coughing. However, when compared to the serious side effects of pain management drugs like Oxycodone or Vicodin, which include death, coughing doesn’t seem like such a notable concern.
So, what do other studies say? According to a Harvard-led review of 28 studies of cannabinoids to treat medical and pain issues published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the use of marijuana for chronic pain is supported by quality evidence.
Of the studies reviewed, all six generalized chronic pain studies found a substantial improvement through using cannabis.
Furthermore, a study from the University of Michigan from March 2016 and published in the Journal of Painshowed that marijuana:
- Improved quality of life.
- Reduced opioid usage by an average of 64 percent.
- Decreased side effects of other medications.
Your body creates its own cannabis-like chemicals that affect various processes like inflammation and pain. It’s thought that cannabis works well to treat chronic discomfort due to these natural cannabinoid receptors we all have within our bodies, although more research needs to be done to ascertain exactly how marijuana works to relieve pain.
Everyone responds differently. For one person, smoking can worsen their symptoms, while it may work for others and then some report that low dose edibles work the best. No doubt, the chemical composition of the strain you choose and how you consume will affect the outcome. It may take a little trial and error before you find the most effective cannabis strain, dose, and preferred method of administration for your pain. Most importantly, if you are currently using opioids, exercise extreme caution. A change in treatment protocol should only be done under medical supervision.
When considering cannabis to treat chronic pain, the adage ‘less is more’ rings true. Patients seem to find more relief in indica strains which are higher in THC than most sativa or hybrid strains. What we’ve found is that these strains can be highly effective in low to moderate doses, but could actually make pain worse in higher doses. So it’s important to start low, and titrate up as appropriate.
THCa is also proving to be a promising treatment route for those suffering with inflammation and pain. THCa products will also not make you ‘high’ so it’s an option for those who are wanting to try medical cannabis without the high effect.
As more definitive information becomes available, patients suffering from a variety of ailments will finally be given an opportunity for relief. Cannabis has already proven its worth in fighting both physical and mental pain, all without carrying the serious side effects of prescription drugs.