In the 80’s I was a young nurse in a major medical center. I was happy to be working after my rigorous education which included anatomy and physiology, chemistry, psychology, ethics, and nursing in every facet of health care. I was ready and I was excited.
Analgesia or pain relief, is an important part of any treatment for cancer, AIDs, multiple sclerosis, and many other serious illnesses. The drugs used in analgesia are called analgesics, and include common painkillers as well as medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is a legal alternative analgesic in many states including California, and for conditions that cause severe and persistent pain, it may even be a better treatment option than traditional pain relievers such as opiates.
How Medical Marijuana Works as an Analgesic
The chemicals in medical marijuana that are only found in the cannabis plant are known as cannabinoids. These compounds have been shown to significantly relieve pain by connecting to the pain receptors in the central nervous system of the human body, and are known to relieve pain in patients even when stronger painkillers derived from opiates are not effective. Findings from studies on medical marijuana and pain relief show:
- Less delta-9-THC, a cannabinoid, is needed for pain relief when compared to codeine, with the pain relief obtained from a 10 mg dose of delta-9-THC comparable to the pain relief obtained from a 60 mg dose of codeine (The analgesic properties of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and codeine, Noyes R. Jr. et al.)
- Patients with access to medical marijuana extracts may decrease their use of opioid pain relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antidepressants (Adjunctive nabilone in cancer pain and symptom management, Maida V., et al.)
- Patients administered inhaled medical marijuana may achieve significant relief from peripheral neuropathy, a common symptom in patients undergoing chemotherapy or taking certain anticancer drugs that causes pain, tingling, or muscle weakness, especially in the hands or feet (Cannabis in painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial, Abrams D.I., et al.)
- If medical marijuana is taken before chemotherapy or anticancer drugs, peripheral neuropathy might be prevented entirely (Cannibidol Prevents the Development of Cold and Mechanical Allodynia in Paclitaxel-Treated Female Mice, Ward S., et al.)
- Those with extremely severe and/or chronic pain might be able to find relief by combining the use of medical marijuana with sustained-release morphine when neither drug alone provides sufficient pain relief (Cannabinoid-opioid interaction in chronic pain, Abrams D.I., et al.)
How Medical Marijuana is Used as an Analgesic
There are many forms in which patients can ingest medical marijuana for pain relief. Although the majority of patients report smoking their medicine, many studies use alternative delivery methods due to lingering negative perceptions about smoking cannabis. It should also be noted that while some studies have shown that although smoking cannabis is not as negative to health as smoking cigarettes, there may be dangers to smoking any type of drug. These alternative methods of medical marijuana delivery have all been shown to provide an analgesic effect:
- Vaporizing, through the use of specialized vaporizer equipment
- Oral ingestion in a solution, either of all parts of the cannabis plant or of scientifically isolated cannabinoids
- Oral ingestion through edibles
Medical marijuana studies are leading to more widespread legalization of cannabis as a treatment option for painful conditions. These are major steps to making cannabis and cannabinoids more widely available as analgesics and removing the stigma attached to using these effective methods of chronic pain relief. For patients living in areas where medical marijuana is already legal at the state level, the analgesic potential of cannabis may be an effective pain relief solution.
For more information on how cannabis can be used as an analgesic or to share your story of how medical marijuana has helped relieve your pain, feel free to contact us or email us directly at info@UnitedPatientsGroup.com.