As cannabis becomes more mainstream, the largest group of new users aren’t partiers looking for a high, but instead, patients used to treat pain management. With over 100 million North Americans suffering from chronic pain, doctors need a safe and effective treatment, but unfortunately, this does not exist with the available pharmaceutical options. Often people feel trapped and debilitated by pain as they can’t even do the simplest tasks like get dressed, go shopping, or hold down a job.
The two main treatments available for relieving pain are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioid prescription medications. But neither of these options are as safe as cannabis.
Please note that this blog is for informational purposes only and you should not self medicate. You should always seek the advice of a medically trained professional. Because of the complexity of cannabis and the human body, cannabis affects people differently.
Current Pharmaceutical Drugs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation and relieve fever and pain by blocking enzymes and proteins made by the body. The most prominent NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen which are available over the counter without a prescription.
Opioid drugs, on the other hand, are one of the most addictive drugs available today, and their use can be fatal if abused. Between January 2016 and September 2018, an estimated 10,300 Canadians died from an apparent opioid-related overdose, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada
How Does Cannabis Work To Relieve Pain?
Cannabinoids are compounds in cannabis that enter into the human endocannabinoid system, interacting with the CB1 and CB2 receptors which produce a wide range of effects including pain relief. This richness in active cannabinoids is one of the reasons researchers consider cannabis useful for treating several ailments. These cannabinoids include the two most wildly known and best studied, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD.) Both THC and CBD contribute to the pain-relieving effects associated with cannabis. THC to the only cannabinoid with the psychoactive effect known as getting high.
THC and CBD have potent anti-inflammatory effects. THC’s anti-inflammatory properties are primarily through activation of CB2 receptors on immune cells which dampens the body’s pain-inducing response to injury. CBD also reduces inflammation by blocking inflammatory mediators and shifting the repair cells from the pro-inflammatory type to the anti-inflammatory type. The benefits of THC and CBD on relieving pain have been well-documented in rats and mice and are now in human clinical trials.
Research suggests medical cannabis may be as effective as opioid medications, if not more so. As more people discover just how effective cannabis may be for pain relief, more people are choosing it.
Types of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is certainly a common issue, but it is also a very general term. Cannabis is known to relieve pain, but pain can arise for a variety of reasons which makes choosing the right cannabis product tricky.
So what are the most common types of chronic pain?
According to research, 50 percent of the adult population will report headaches for one year, while more than 90 percent will report a lifetime history of headaches. A chronic headache is defined as one which occurs for at least 15 days per month for no less than three consecutive months.
The most common types of chronic headaches are:
- Tension headaches
- Eye strain headaches
- Cluster headaches
The best type of cannabis strain for a headache is one that is generally one high in THC.
Cancers are a large family of diseases that involve abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. It is estimated 113,000 Canadian men are diagnosed with cancer and 43,300 men will die from cancer each year. For women, 107,400 Canadian women will be diagnosed with cancer and 38,700 women will die from cancer. On average, 604 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every day according to Health Canada.
Some common types of cancer are:
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Kidney cancer
THC contains strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, so it has shown some success in the treatment of cancer.
Chronic Joint Pain
Joint pain is one of the leading types of chronic pain among Canadian adults, typically caused by injury, infection, or advancing age. According to the Arthritis Society, one in four Canadian women and one in six Canadian men have arthritis. While arthritis affects people of all ages, the likelihood increases with age. Nearly one in two seniors over 65 have arthritis.
Some of the more common types of chronic joint pain are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Repetitive motion injury
A strain with high CBD is best for joint and arthritis pain.
Chronic Nerve Pain
Chronic nerve pain affects one of every ten Canadians, according to a Stats Can study. This commonly happens when the nerves are either compressed, damaged, or exposed to drugs that strip their protective exterior coating.
Some of the more common examples of chronic neuropathic pain are:
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Postherpetic neuralgia
- Trigeminal neuralgia
CBD helps to reduce neuropathic pain through the suppression of chronic inflammation.
An increasing number of studies are demonstrating that cannabis is an effective pain treatment with fewer side effects than many alternatives. Medical cannabis has fewer risks than other pain-relief medications such as codeine. It also offers more benefits while providing similar pain-relief effects. Since the reactions are incredibly variable and risks of any adverse effect are very low, it is best to discuss options for your pain management with a medical professional and begin with a small dose as a trial. Talk to your doctor about the most suitable option for your needs.