People’s interest in medical cannabis is growing by the day. Cannabis is being used by many people to increase their quality of life and help them to combat many of humanity’s most common ailments. Pain is an ailment that we will all face throughout our lives. Most people experience pain periodically, but for many people, pain is something they live with constantly. We currently live in an interesting space when it comes to pain management in the United States. Traditionally, doctors prescribed their patient’s painkillers to help cope with this ailment, but recently we have begun to see serious problems arise because of this solution. Due to this, many people have begun to turn to cannabis to help them relieve the pain they experience in their daily lives. Cannabis is a great solution for pain, and as access to it grows, we believe it will become one of the most prominent solutions for pain management in the United States.
Pain is one of the most prominent issues that humans face during their lives. The CDC reports that 50 million Americans (20% of the population) experience chronic pain daily. Of those 50 million people, 20 million of them have what is referred to as “high-impact chronic pain” which is defined as pain severe enough to limit work or life activities. Chronic pain is one of the most common disabilities in the United States. “About 83 percent of people with HICP are unable to work and one-third have difficulty with simple activities such as bathing and getting dressed” (Anson). Many of these people who suffer from chronic pain are prescribed painkillers from their doctors. Opiate painkillers are the medication of choice for many doctors when prescribing patients in need of pain management. Opiates have come under much scrutiny lately as the prescribing of these drugs has created an epidemic of opiate use in the United States. Currently, in the United States, we are seeing the highest rates of opiate abuse and addiction in history. “In the United States, more than 130 people overdose and die daily on opiate drugs” (CDC/NCHS). It is clear that we are in need of another, less harmful way to treat people for pain.
When looking for alternatives to opiates for pain management, cannabis is one of the best options that we have. Cannabis helps to regulate pain through interactions with the endocannabinoid system, a system of receptors in our body that help to maintain the standard functions of the central nervous system and the immune system. The endocannabinoid system is so robust that researchers believe that “modulating [the] endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans”(Birnbaum, Leinow). This includes pain derived from inflammation, neuropathic disease or degradation, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer pain. Cannabis is an effective medicine for pain management and can do so without an intense psychoactive effect on the consumer. Pain management with cannabis can be achieved by using a combined ratio of CBD and THC to stimulate the endocannabinoid system. In their book, CBD A Patient’s Guide to Healing with Cannabis – Healing Without The High, Leonard Leinow, and Juliana Bierbaum discuss the different ratios of CBD to THC that they have found to work for their patients. “Oral CBD product with a ratio of 20:1 or higher and administered as drops, capsules or edibles can be very effective in treating pain, especially the inflammatory kind” (Birnbaum, Leinow). For neuropathic pain, research has found that a “4:1 CBD to THC ratio is most effective” (Birnbaum, Leinow). Topical products can also be effective for pain relief as well. Topical products for on the spot pain relief are great for sore joints and muscles. Topicals with a transdermal carrier will allow the cannabinoids to penetrate deep into the skin and eventually into the bloodstream. Topical products with a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD will have the best results for people dealing with full-body and systemic pain. Everyone is different, so while we wait for more research to come out about specific dosing for cannabis and pain management, experimenting with the amount of cannabis you take, the method you use to consume, the ratio of CBD to THC, as well as the frequency of your dosing will help you to dial in the right dose for you. If you are intimidated by proper dosing and do not know where to start, please check out our article, Microdosing Cannabis: A Lifestyle.
Cannabis as a pain medicine can also be used in conjunction with opiate pain medication to help manage pain. Although cannabis can compound the drowsy effects of opiate medications, there are no harmful drug interactions that take place when using these drugs together. “Cannabinoids can be used along with opioid medications, and a number of studies have demonstrated that they can reduce the number of opioids needed, lessen the buildup of tolerance and reduce the severity of withdrawal” (Birnbaum, Leinow). This relationship between cannabis and opiate painkillers shows a potential solution to the opioid crisis we are now facing in the United States. By using cannabis to lessen the opiate dosage people need to manage their pain, we can then begin to define a clear path to recovery where cannabis is used to help manage pain, but also the body’s chemical dependency to opiates. This will allow us to help people use fewer opiates and help them comfortably ween off of them once they have recovered from their injury. Cannabis can also be used to help those who are chemically dependent on opiate medications to lessen the withdrawal symptoms while in rehabilitation. Some rehabilitation clinics in the United States have been experimenting with cannabinoid therapy for weening people off of opiate dependence. More research is needed to determine the true effects of this application, but the potential is there for cannabis to become a part of the opiate rehabilitation process.
Cannabis has been and will always be a great option for pain management. It’s easy on the body, doesn’t create chemical dependence, and can help manage pain due to inflammation (injury), neurological degradation, cancer, and arthritis. Cannabis can be used in conjunction with opiate medications to help manage pain and also the effects of opiates on the body and mind. Cannabis can also take the place of opiate medications as a long term option for chronic pain management. As we begin to learn more about cannabis and its cannabinoid compounds we will begin to figure out new ways to use these compounds to help those in chronic pain. The potential for cannabis to change the way we heal ourselves is huge and we believe, in time, cannabis will be one of the most widely used medicines for pain management in the United States.
Continue your education on vaping cannabis oils in our next blog, Is Vaping Cannabis Oil Safe?
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Anson, Pat. “CDC: 50 Million Americans Have Chronic Pain.” Pain News Network, Pain News Network, 13 Sept. 2018, www.painnewsnetwork.org/stories/2018/9/13/cdc-50-million-americans-have-chronic-pain.
CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality. CDC WONDER, Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2018. https://wonder.cdc.gov.
BIRNBAUM, LEONARD LEINOW AND JULIANA. CBD: a Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis-Healing without the High. READHOWYOUWANT COM LTD, 2019.