Enduring chronic pain can be a tremendous burden. Anyone who is unfortunate enough to suffer from this condition knows very well how important effective treatment is. Many treatment alternatives only work for periods time, quickly losing their effectiveness over a couple of months or even weeks. Other therapies, like the opioids, come at a very high price in terms of crippling side effects or the much-dreaded addiction.
Medical marijuana is a natural treatment that has shown relief for chronic pain sufferers. Its reliable effectiveness coupled with relatively minor adverse reactions, make this ancient medication an attractive alternative for anyone who wants to find some temporary relief from pain.
How does medical marijuana reduce chronic pain?
Pain is a subjective sensation produced inside your brain, and that’s why different people react to it in a variety of ways. The causes of chronic pain can be diverse, ranging from direct tissue damage (nociceptive pain) to malfunctions or inflammations of the nervous system (neuropathic pain). The chemical compounds found in marijuana such as the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are similar to a group of substances naturally found in our body called cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids can modulate pain and reduce inflammation by acting as “synaptic circuit breakers.” In other words, they “interrupt” the transmission of the pain signal by interacting with a system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). ECS receptors are scattered through the body in many organs, including the brain and central nervous system.
Bottom line, medical pot has been largely used to successfully provide relief from the pain caused by many conditions, including:
- Cancer Pain
- HIV/AIDS-related pain
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Back Pain
- Diabetic Neuropathy
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic or recurrent Headaches
Many patients report a significantly improved quality of life, decreased side effects of other drugs (such as nausea associated with many chemotherapy agents) and a vastly reduced opioid usage.
However, since everyone’s biology is unique, patients will respond differently to treatment with medical weed. Specific strains may also have different levels of effectiveness, and many other variables should also be taken into account (administration method, dosage, type of chronic pain, etc.).
Is medical cannabis really effective and safe for chronic pain?
Medical marijuana has been widely used to treat many different conditions in the last few years. Many reports now have solid evidence to support this choice. Fortunately, chronic pain is among the vast amount of research that has investigate the safety and effectiveness of cannabis as a medicine. A study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined 24 different trials that included more than 2,500 patients affected by neuropathic and chronic pain. Evidence suggested that marijuana can effectively provide relief to patients affected by these conditions, provided that the medication is used appropriately.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) came to the same conclusion, according to a report released in January 2017. Other studies that assessed the safety profile of medical marijuana in chronic pain found that side effects were less frequent and usually minor (mostly nausea, headache or sleepiness).
How can I legally obtain medical marijuana in California to treat chronic pain?
If you suffer from chronic pain and want to find relief by using medical cannabis, you can request a specific card from a medical marijuana doctor in California. In 1996, Ballot Proposition 215 was added to the Compassionate Use Act to ensure that all citizens of this state who suffer from a serious illness could obtain and use cannabis for medical purposes. This law allows any primary caregiver to recommend medical marijuana “in the treatment of in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”
After you receive a legitimately written recommendation or medical certificate from your doctor, you can buy medical marijuana in San Francisco from any online or physical dispensary. Many of them will even deliver their products to your home!
Chronic pain can be a debilitating if not crippling condition, and medical marijuana can provide you a much-needed alternative to the traditional opioid therapy. Seek your doctor’s advice and talk with him about this treatment – the quality of your life can be greatly improved.
Article by Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D.
- Jensen B, Chen J, Furnish T, Wallace M. Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain: a Review of Basic Science and Clinical Evidence. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2015 Oct;19(10):50.
- Hill KP. Medical Marijuana for Treatment of Chronic Pain and Other Medical and Psychiatric Problems: A Clinical Review. JAMA. 2015 Jun 23-30;313(24):2474-83.
- Ware MA, Wang T, Shapiro S, Collet JP; COMPASS study team. Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study (COMPASS). J Pain. 2015 Dec;16(12):1233-1242.
Guindon J, Hohmann AG. The endocannabinoid system and pain. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2009 Dec;8(6):403-21.