Pain is a symptom of many diseases and conditions. Many people seek medical assistance trying to overcome this problem. But since pain is caused by various reasons, some of which are vague, it can be difficult to relieve it. Scientists are still working on developing really effective remedies for certain types of pain as some existing medications can bring relief along with side effects. Trying to reach success, experts research both the newest and oldest drugs. Special attention is paid to the pain-relieving properties of marijuana.
In fact, medical marijuana is used to treat a vast variety of painful conditions, from headache to the pain of childbirth. Does it really help or is it a form of placebo?
How does medical marijuana work?
Medical marijuana treatment involves using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or chemicals in it to treat symptoms of diseases or conditions. It’s even included in some outpatient rehab programs (find it here) as it may be used as a detox and maintenance protocol for people with severe addictions.
Cannabis is not just an opioid substitute. Pain is one of the drug withdrawal symptoms, and clients of outpatient rehab centers (who practice this pioneering approach) can be prescribed medical marijuana.
Cannabis owes its therapeutic properties mainly to 2 compounds:
- Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – a chemical that can relieve some symptoms (including pain) and produces a psychoactive effect (make users “high”).
- Cannabidiol (CBD) – another active chemical that provides users with medical benefits without producing the “high.”
These two chemicals are similar to a group of substances naturally present in the body. They are called cannabinoids and are released by the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids can reduce pain by acting as “synaptic circuit breakers.” Simply put, they interrupt the transmission of the pain signal by interacting with cannabinoid receptors found in many body organs.
How beneficial is medical marijuana?
Substance abuse experts show interest in using medical cannabis as a possible treatment in outpatient alcohol rehab and outpatient drug rehab. Research is underway, with some findings already available.
Scientists from the University of Michigan found out that medical use of cannabis was associated with 64% lower opioid use in patients who suffered from chronic pain. Patients also reported a better quality of life and had fewer adverse effects of other medications used.
Harvard Medical School and Substance Abuse Consultation Service came up with a review of 28 studies of cannabinoids used to treat chronic pain. Of the studies reviewed, 6 examined patients with chronic pain, other 6 focused on neuropathic pain, and 12 investigated multiple sclerosis. The majority of these studies revealed a substantial improvement in patients who used cannabis.
Israeli scientists from the Institute of Oncology, Tel Aviv, observed the patterns of medical cannabis use among 279 cancer patients in 2014. 70% of participants showed improvement in pain. They also reported improved well-being (70%), appetite (60%), and reduced nausea (50%). As for side effects, they were mild and mostly included fatigue and dizziness.
Scientists from the University of Colorado reported the benefits of medical marijuana use for another type of chronic pain. They found out that the frequency of migraine headache was reduced with cannabis use.
Having a healing effect, the cannabis plant can boast an absence of adverse effects on immune function, which is especially important for people who are diagnosed with MS (Multiple sclerosis), HIV/AIDS, cancer, and spastic and movement disorders.
However, there’s still a lack of research in the area of cannabis use for chronic pain, especially in terms of different strains, dosages, and methods of consumption.
Is marijuana better that synthetic remedy?
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are generally used to reduce pain. Prolonged use can have such side effects as increased risks of heart attack and strokes, kidney disease, gastrointestinal ulcers, and bleeds.
Medical marijuana is becoming a much preferable option than traditional over-the-counter and prescription painkillers. As a remedy for chronic pain, it has fewer side effects. CNN reports that states that have legalized marijuana for managing pain have significantly fewer deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses each year. Cannabis and its constituents are both safe and effective when it comes to pain management.
Can medical marijuana use lead to addiction?
Using medical cannabis can have several side effects, such as impaired reaction time, dizziness, loss of concentration, rapid heart rate, and some others. But the most severe side effect is developing an addiction. Statistics says that 9% of people who start using marijuana in adulthood become addicted. This type of addiction can be cured in outpatient rehab that specializes in treating marijuana use disorders.
The THC activates the brain’s reward system, which governs responses to healthy pleasurable behaviors such as sex, chocolate, and drugs. The chemical stimulates the brain cells, just like other powerful drugs that cause euphoric feelings and can eventually lead to addiction.
However, this scenario is possible when a person smokes marijuana as a crutch, does it every day, and doesn’t care about the consequences. If you follow the doctor’s prescription and avoid abusing, the chances of addiction will be minimal.
If you still have some worries, consider “isolate” products. A group of scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and McGill University found out that CBD can be used as medicine without the risky adverse effects of the THC, specifically addiction.
CBD products for treating pain are produced in different forms:
- The oil that is taken orally;
- Cannabis oil – e-liquid that can be vaporized;
- Topical products – lotions, sprays, and creams that are applied to the skin;
- Edibles – infused in food, such as cookies, lollipops, and brownies.
How you take it is up to you. Different ways of using marijuana take different time to produce effects. For example, after vaping it, you’ll feel relieved very quickly. If you eat it, you’ll experience the effects in 1-2 hours.
The question of whether or not marijuana can be used as a treatment has been debated for years. Scientists, medics, and health officials haven’t yet reached a consensus. So, even if your doctor has prescribed medical marijuana, the decision is entirely yours. If you or a loved one is suffering from prescription drug addiction seek help immediately. Consider enrolling into a drug rehab program in Bellevue, Washington. The calm atmosphere and nice people will make your rehab experience much better.