Chronic nerve pain, also known as neuropathic pain, is a type of pain that persists over a long time due to injury to nerves. Usually, damaged nerves send altered signals to the spinal cord and brain, which leads to chronic pain. There have been many treatments for chronic pain, among them, medical cannabis. The growing use of marijuana to treat chronic pain is attributed to its capacity to interfere with the pain reception and prevent opioid dependency. In this post, we describe how cannabis treats chronic pain.
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The Chemical Components
Cannabis is a genus name that applies to many plants in the cannabis family. The two most notable species are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, though hybrids of the two are common. The plants are chemically complex and have hundreds of molecules, some of which are identified as cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are chemical components that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. It’s a complex system of receptors and neurotransmitters that affect functions such as pain, mood, appetite, sleep, metabolism, and others. Two of the major cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), have been studied more over the years. When consumed with other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, these two compounds produce a synergistic effect, known as the entourage effect.
How Cannabis Helps With Pain
There are several types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids bind to and activate these receptors. CB1 receptors mainly found in the brain, while CB2 receptors primarily found in the immune system are affected by marijuana intake.
C.B. receptors form part of the body’s nociceptive perception pathway. For your body to sense pain, a process that converts stimuli to electrical signals is essential. Endocannabinoids in your body activates pain receptors, but it’s possible to use external cannabinoids, such as those in cannabis, to mimic the effect.
Both THC and CBD are believed to bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors, which affects their ability to perceive pain. Cannabis compounds act as C.B. receptor agonists and have antinociceptive effects. They also improve pain tolerability through the entourage effect. However, since THC has psychoactive effects, which means that it gets you “high,” its usage is highly disputable.
Fortunately, other compounds that combine to produce the entourage effect can be used separately to help with pain management. CBD and cannabichromene (CBC), which are the other most significant active compounds after THC, have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
Many HIV positive patients and amputees have complained that opioids did not solve their neuropathic pain, but cannabis proved useful. For instance, a study found a 30% reduction in pain for patients with HIV-related neuropathic pain after only five days of smoking marijuana.
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Unfortunately, while smoking is the most effective way to absorb active cannabis components, it comes with respiratory problems. However, whole-plant extracts, pure extracts, edibles, and oils are all popular ways to ingest cannabinoids. When ingested, cannabinoids from cannabis take longer to kick in, but the effects last longer.
Nonetheless, more than two-thirds of patients who get medical marijuana in the U.S. use it to treat chronic pain. A study compared potent THC against codeine for pain treatment. In the study, 10 milligrams of THC delivered the same results as 60 milligrams of codeine, while 20 milligrams of THC worked as well as 120 milligrams of codeine. Besides pain relief, the patients also reported experiencing a greater sense of well-being, improved appetite, less anxiety, and less nausea.
Also, many studies and trials quote the use of Marinol as an alternative for cannabis. Marinol is a synthetic legal form of THC, which is used for nausea control and appetite stimulation. However, Marinol is not as effective as marijuana. The balance of THC and other compounds is relevant to pain management.
A study that sort to gather patient perspectives in using cannabis for treating chronic pain identified the benefits and downsides of using marijuana. The patients used different modes of consumption, including concentrates, joints, vaporizers, edibles, tinctures, and topicals. For many patients, the benefits included stopping pain and changing their perception of pain.
However, patients noted several negative aspects, including the smell of marijuana, chest irritation, and coughing, especially when smoked. Others noted decreased concentration, paranoia, and stigma associated with the illegality of marijuana.
The Legality of Medical Marijuana
While there is still limited research into the effects on cannabis on the body, there is enough evidence to support its positive impact on pain management. For this reason, 33 countries, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana.
If you qualify for medical marijuana, a qualified physician can recommend it to you for pain treatment. However, the physician cannot help you to procure marijuana. The law also only protects legal, medical marijuana users since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and is only legal for recreational purposes in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Usually, users get their doses from authorized dispensaries.
How Can MMJ Doctors Help?
We are a medical marijuana clinic that helps patients receive medical marijuana prescriptions for several reasons, including chronic pain. Once you sign up with us, we take you through the effects of cannabis to help you find the best solution for chronic pain. Book an appointment with us today.