Marijuana and Chronic Pain: How Does It Work?

by | May 5, 2023 | Massachusetts, Opioids

Marijuana and Chronic Pain: How Does It Work?

In recent years, marijuana has become legal in more states, and researchers are studying why people use it for medicinal purposes.

In addition to seeking medical research about why their patients use medical marijuana, doctors need to know how to recommend it safely and adequately. A recent study found that 62.2% of patients who use medical marijuana seek relief from chronic pain.

Because of this, the once-taboo subject of using marijuana for medical purposes is gaining mainstream acceptance and is being recognized as an effective treatment option for chronic pain sufferers.

In this blog post, we’ll go over how marijuana and chronic pain works and the many reasons why medical marijuana is beneficial and not addicting to patients.

Medical Marijuana Is an Effective Treatment for Chronic Pain

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, patients with chronic pain account for the highest percentage of those who use MMJ.

Lead investigator Dr. Kevin Boehnke and his colleagues from the Department of Anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center collected data from all states where medical marijuana use has been legalized.

Published in February 2019 in the journal Health Affairs, Dr. Boehnke said of the study, “Since the majority of states in the U.S. have legalized medical cannabis, we should consider how best to regulate cannabis and safely incorporate cannabis into medical practice adequately.”

Medical marijuana has been legalized in 33 states and the District of Columbia since 1996, with nine states legalizing it for recreational use. However, with no national patient registry for medical marijuana, doctors do not have data to show the reasons for and effectiveness of medical marijuana comprehensively. While some patients voluntarily provide this data, not all states have a volunteer registry.

Marijuana and Chronic Pain

Pain is one of the alarming symptoms that indicate the presence of health problems in the body.

There are so many reasons why people experience pain, making it a difficult symptom to treat. Some causes do not have a cure or treatments with significant side effects. In search of pain management alternatives, doctors and patients are turning to marijuana, an ancient and proven remedy. It has been used to treat various ailments, from headaches to post-surgery pain.

There are three main types of pain, each with a different path to the brain:

  1. Somatic Pain – A person typically thinks of bodily pain when they describe what their pain feels like. It is characterized by dull and constant pain at the site of injury, which is transmitted to the brain by peripheral nerves (the nerves that send communication signals throughout the body).
  2. Visceral Pain: This deep abdominal pressure sensation is brought on by particular gut receptors. It occurs when the abdominal organs or tissues are stretched by injury or disease.
  3. Neuropathic Pain – When nerves are injured, neuropathic pain occurs. Even a slight touch on an injured area sends pain signals to the brain. Unlike other types of pain, narcotics do not relieve this type of pain.

Medical Marijuana Is an Effective Treatment for Chronic Pain

Based on the current guidelines, all four studies addressing the combination of opioids and vaporized cannabis flower showed further pain reduction.

This reinforces the conclusion that the benefits of CBM for improving pain control in patients taking opioids outweigh the risk of nonserious adverse events (AEs), such as:

  • dry mouth,
  • dizziness,
  • increased appetite,
  • sedation,
  • and concentration difficulties.

The recommendations also highlighted evidence demonstrating that a majority of participants were able to reduce the use of routine pain medications with concomitant CBM/opioid administration while simultaneously offering secondary benefits such as:

  • improved sleep,
  • anxiety, and mood,
  • prevention of opioid tolerance
  • and dose escalation.

Can medical marijuana help me?

As we have seen, marijuana has been used to treat chronic pain with some success. Not only can it help relieve pain symptoms, but it may also be used as a form of preventative therapy to reduce its severity and impact.

Of course, any decision to use marijuana should be made in consultation with a medical professional.

Each person is unique, and their response to treatment can vary. If you are considering taking medical marijuana for chronic pain relief, book an appointment with us.

Our medical doctors at Medwell Health and Wellness can assess whether medical marijuana will help your condition.

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