Suffering From Pain? Medical Marijuana May Be Able To Help
Updated: Aug 7, 2019
Welcome to the second entry in a two-part series from Ohio Marijuana Card's own, Alec Chenkus, discussing one of Ohio's most recognized qualifying conditions for medical marijuana: pain that is chronic, severe or intractable.
You can read the first entry, Understanding Chronic Pain, by clicking here.
Can Medical Marijuana Help Relieve Chronic Pain?
Pain can be so overwhelming, debilitating or life-threatening that many patients turn to steroids or opioids in order to cope. But medicines like those can have adverse side effects ranging from annoying (constipation) to deadly (overdose). But where side effects are plentiful, and results are decidedly mixed, marijuana offers a better, safer and sometimes more successful alternative. Cannabis not only helps relive, soften or dull pain in many patients, but has also been shown to help patients better tolerate their painful medical conditions.
For pain relief, medical marijuana offers patients a variety of options to best address their pain regions, too. Whether it be topicals that can be rubbed directly on your skin, edibles or consumables than can be orally ingested for full body relief, or vaporization for immediate relief, medical marijuana will provide the type of specialized relief you are seeking.
When using medical marijuana for treatment, it is important to consider the ratio of THC and CBD. THC is characterized as a pain reliever, muscle relaxant, and antioxidant that is used to increase appetite, relieve spasms, and reduce nausea. CBD is characterized as a pain reliever, antioxidant, muscle relaxant, anti-convulsant, and sleep aid that is used to inhibit cancer growth, inhibit tumor cell growth, reduce nausea, increase appetite, reduce spasms, and reduce anxiety.
The key to using medical cannabis for pain is two-fold. For starters, a personalized approach is needed; each person is different, and adjustments may be needed to zero in on the dose that controls pain with minimal side effects.
It is usually best to start on a low dose of THC and CBD, although when you meet with one of our Ohio Marijuana Card doctors you will receive a personalized treatment plan to help navigate your treatment and goals. And when you visit dispensaries, you will speak with a budtender, patient consultant, or even a pharmacist, in some case. They can further help a patient understand which types of cannabis products to use, be it dry flower or an oil or tincture.
Medical Marijuana in Action
A study on 2,592 pain management patients done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found ten themes that were identified in response to “What do you like most about medical cannabis”, with the largest sub-theme of health benefits being pain relief.
Respondents described the experience as highly favorable, commenting “it stops the pain,” and “it’s been life changing for my pain." Other comments included “while it doesn’t take away the pain completely, it seems to numb some of it,” “I can tolerate pain a little better,” and “I feel no pain...anyone who hasn’t had chronic pain would not even understand how good it feels to even have it gone for a few hours.”
Positive Characteristics of Medical Cannabis, with common responses:
Sleep Onset (“It helps me to fall asleep”)
Sleep Maintenance (“It helps me sleep ALL night long,” “Help with my insomnia”)
Reduced Nightmares (“This is the first time since I was 8 years old that I have been nightmare free”).
Overdose Potential (“you can’t OD,” “It will not kill me,” “That it is safe”)
Natural (“All natural,” “It’s organic,” “Not a synthetic”)
Strains (“The availability of strains,” “Knowing exactly what strain you are getting and THC/CBD content”).
Limited Addictive Potential (“It is not an addictive substance,” or “It is non habit forming”).
Efficacy (“the efficacy is amazing,” “It works!,” “It works on so many levels," “I get relief when nothing else has worked,” “I had no idea that it could help me so much,” “This is the best that I have felt in years”).
Non-health benefits were identified as well, and these responses included:
General improvement in the quality of life (“It lets me enjoy life more fully,” “I get to feel normal,” “lets me live a more productive life and a more fulfilling one”) and functionality (“It gives me the ability to function throughout the day,” “I am more active and able to do things I want”).
Cognitive aspects (“Distracts me from the pain and dwelling on negative thoughts,” “Promotes focus,” and “I can think more clearly!”) were noted.
Relaxation (“The degree of relaxation that I get from it,” “It helps me relax,” and “The calm relaxed feeling that I get shortly after”).
Further, reliance on and comparison of non-cannabis medications was identified as a theme. The responses were divided into sections, including:
A Decrease in Prescription Medications (“Not needing prescription pain pills,” “Not having to use prescription meds,” “the medical marijuana has all but eliminated the need to take them (oxycodone and hydrocodone) totally”)
Effectiveness of Cannabis Compared to Prescription Medications (“That it works better than any pharmaceutical I’ve ever used,” “The benefits far outweighs ANY of the pain medications I have been prescribed!,” It is truly amazing that finding the right strain, and the right mode of delivery (vaporizer) can help lessen pain better than prescription drugs”)
Relative Safety (“medical cannabis, even if smoked, is a safer alternative to so many prescription drugs,” “replaces dangerous pharmacy drugs”)
Painkillers, specifically, were another subtheme (“Decreased pain meds by 80%,” “I like that I am almost off all painkillers,” “Pain is treated without having to use pharmaceuticals”).
The remaining responses regarded side-effects, either specific to cannabis (“The lack of side effects!,” “It has the least amount of side effects of all the treatments I have used”) or relative to other medications (“I don’t have terrible stomach pain from anti-inflammatory drugs,” “It makes it easier to me to tolerate the side effects of my medications").
The Results Are In…!
Cannabis can serve at least two important roles in safe, effective pain management; it can provide relief from the pain itself, and it can control the nausea associated with taking opioid drugs, as well as the nausea, vomiting, and dizziness that often accompany severe, prolonged pain. A 1999 study commissioned by the White House and conducted by the Institute of Medicine also recognized the role that cannabis can play in treating chronic pain: “After nausea and vomiting, chronic pain was the condition cited most often to the IOM study team as a medicinal use for marijuana.” Between 1975 and 2009, there were more than 300 studies showing that cannabinoids and cannabis can help patients experiencing chronic pain.
To add more evidence, Americans for Safe Access found in a 2009 review that “nearly all of the 33 published controlled clinical trials conducted in the United States [on medical cannabis] have shown significant and measurable benefits in subjects receiving the treatment.” This includes that no adverse health effects related to medical cannabis use have been reported, even among the most seriously ill and immune-compromised patients. A complete health assessment in 2002 of patients enrolled in the U.S. Investigational New Drug program, whom had used cannabis daily for between 11 and 27 years, found cannabis to be clinically effective for each, with no negative health consequences.
This optimistic data is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to medical marijuana treatment for chronic or intractable pain. And until marijuana is de-scheduled from a Schedule 1 drug classification - in the same category as heroin and bath salts - federal funding restricts further, comprehensive studies into medical marijuana (since 2010 there have been an average of just 8-9 cannabis studies approved per year).
However, for most patients, they do not need further research, as the testimonials and personal experience of medical marijuana patients have shown them all what they need to know: this medicine works. They know they don’t have to worry about overdose potential, and that is more than can be said about many other medications being used to treat chronic or intractable pain.
Our doctors are compassionate individuals that chose to leave traditional practices in order to join this emerging new treatment option of Ohioans. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, or have any questions about the process of receiving a medical marijuana card, please call our Patient Support Center at (1-866-457-5559).
Be sure to check out our latest episode of Ohio Marijuana Pod!