Is cannabis therapy the answer for the millions of Americans and other folks worldwide who suffer from chronic pain?
Chronic pain is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the United States, yet estimates of its frequency and impact vary significantly. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics added a new set of questions about pain to its National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a large household-based annual survey that provides valuable insights into the health status of adults in the United States.
According to a study of the latest NHIS data, 50.2 million (20.5 percent) of U.S. adults endure chronic pain, according to researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Mass Eye and Ear. That’s 1 in 5 adults! They also calculated that the annual cost of lost production owing to chronic pain is almost $300 billion.
Traditionally, medication–especially opioids and benzodiazepines–is prescribed to manage chronic pain. However, the side effects and risks for addiction are high.
Medical marijuana is increasingly becoming a better alternative to treat chronic pain, with surprising benefits.
Here are some ways that medical cannabis is transforming the way chronic pain patients get relief.
Chronic Pain In the US
Chronic pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including cancer, Lyme disease, arthritis, trauma, nerve damage, fibromyalgia, and many others. However, for the majority of persons who suffer from it, the pain can be so severe that it interferes with their quality of life. It frequently necessitates the use of powerful pharmaceutical treatments, which can have serious side effects and do not always function. Opioids are prescribed for severe cases of chronic pain, and they’re notorious for producing an opioid crisis across the country, leading to a difficult-to-break addiction.
Traditional Treatments Do More Harm Than Good
Fentanyl, codeine, morphine, methadone, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone are some of the more commonly prescribed opioid medicines for the treatment of pain.
Because they are designed to bind to opioid receptors in the brain and other regions of the body, including the spinal cord, they are generally successful in alleviating pain.
When you take opioids, your brain receives a signal that your body is no longer in pain. These pills, however, must be prescribed by a doctor because they may be incredibly addictive, and overdosing on them is simply too easy. When someone is in chronic pain or severe agony, such as that caused by cancer or nerve damage, over-the-counter pain relievers just don’t work.
Opioids, unfortunately, do not come without adverse effects, which are common with prescription drugs. Slightly greater amounts can cause mortality by rapidly slowing your heart rate. Because opioids induce pleasurable feelings in some people, they can quickly become addictive. Insomnia, lethargy, decreased appetite, respiratory issues, and violent vomiting are some of the other negative effects.
Cannabis Therapy For Chronic Pain
For the millions of people who suffer from chronic pain, cannabis is a natural and safe option, now recognized in clinical studies.
Investigators from the Rothman Orthopedic Institute at Thomas Jefferson University conducted a recent study, with results presented in November 2021, that shed light on how cannabis therapy helps chronic pain sufferers lessen their reliance on opioids and benzodiazepines.
They looked at prescription drug usage patterns in people with chronic pain before and after they were given medical cannabis drugs for the study. The Prescription Medication Monitoring Program of Pennsylvania was used to assess their prescription drug use, and prescription data was analyzed for a 6-month period before and following their registration in the medical cannabis program.
The results were mind-blowing, to say the least. They discovered that after cannabis therapy, 73 percent of the subjects either quit or reduced their opioid intake. Furthermore, 69 percent of individuals taking benzodiazepines discontinued or reduced their use. The participants also said that the degree of their pain had diminished and that their mental and physical health had improved, as well as their quality of life.
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Why Cannabis Therapy Is Better
Cannabis has been shown to be a considerably safer alternative to opioids in clinical trials. It is effective not only in the treatment of acute pain but also in the treatment of chronic pain. Even minute doses of THC, when inhaled rather than ingested orally, have been shown to effectively reduce chronic neuropathic pain in studies. In 2020, a study found that half of the adult volunteers who were addicted to opioids for chronic pain were able to entirely quit taking them, while the other third lowered their dosage. After the trial, the participants stated that they preferred cannabinoids over opioids because they had fewer adverse effects, were easier to obtain, produced better results, and had fewer withdrawal symptoms.
If these patients had been offered cannabis in the first place, rather than be prescribed opioids and benzos, a lot of the withdrawal symptoms and side effects could have been avoided. The hope is that moving forward, cannabis therapy becomes more mainstream and is recommended before pharmaceuticals as an effective treatment for chronic pain.
As evidenced by the studies conducted with chronic pain patients, cannabis therapy is a better alternative for treating chronic pain. Although they began with opioids and benzos as their initial treatment, cannabis was shown to be a great healing substance for their bodies. That’s why cannabis is considered crucial in addressing the opioid crisis: it can help patients transition off safely while also minimizing the negative consequences of opiate withdrawal. There is a lot of evidence that cannabis is a great alternative to opioids, but if you are currently medicating with opioids or know someone who is, and you want to get off of it for whatever reason, talk to your doctor first.