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Pain management with Cannabis

08/21/2020 pain


Before we go any further, it’s important to note that this blog in no way provides medical advice, and is only here to give general information. Though more research is being done today than ever before, the prohibition of cannabis has led to a lack of scientific research on it’s exact effects on the human body. If you are looking to use cannabis for medical purposes, please consult a qualified and licensed physician. 

Pain management with Cannabis 

It is no secret among consumers that cannabis is a medicine in a multitude of ways. We have proof of marijuana being used medicinally as far back as 400 AD. Cannabis was even used medicinally in the United States for a short time before its prohibition. It was written into United States Pharmacopeia in 1850 and was used until the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 outlawed cannabis and led to it leaving the United States Pharmacopeia in 1942. Luckily for us, the laws are catching up to what people have known for centuries. As more states legalize cannabis for medical use, we are able to gather data on what conditions cannabis is officially being used to treat. While the beauty of this glorious plant is its ability to treat numerous ailments, the number one reason people use cannabis is to manage pain. If you are one of the many who are looking to find relief through marijuana, you are not alone. 

Understanding pain

Pain is something that every human experiences throughout their lives. It’s unavoidable, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Pain is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. Oftentimes the issue is that we get the message that something is injured or inflamed, but the pain persists. Though pain is the most prevalent reason for seeking medical attention, it can be hard to treat due to there being multiple types of pain, and some remedies don’t always work for different types of pain. To understand how cannabis works for pain relief, it’s important to understand how pain works in our bodies. 

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are three main pathways in which we experience pain. 

  • Somatic Pain – This is what most people are referring to when they say that they’re in pain. Somatic pain is the message sent by our receptors when an injury occurs. These signals reach the brain by way of the peripheral nervous system. 
  • Visceral Pain – Visceral pain occurs when the internal organs become stretched or damaged by disease or abdominal injury. Naturally, these signals are fired by receptors in the gut. This kind of pain can be difficult to diagnose because the pain is often referred, meaning the pain is felt in an area other than the site of the damage. 
  • Neuropathic Pain – Neuropathic pain occurs when the nerves themselves sustain injury. This type of pain is difficult to treat because it doesn’t respond to narcotics. It often feels like a strong burning sensation even with the slightest touch.

How cannabinoids help manage pain

Now that we’ve lightly covered how pain works in the body, we can get into the good stuff, how cannabis is so effective in helping people manage pain. The endocannabinoid system has everything to do with how cannabis influences pain management. The nerves in the peripheral nervous system that carry pain signals are rich in CB2 receptors. When phytocannabinoids like THC and CBD bind to these receptors, they seem to block the pain signals. This is useful in somatic inflammatory pain. THC & CBD are not solely responsible for pain relief of cannabinoids. Our bodies produce endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). According to Libertpub, these two chemicals can be produced in injured tissues and work to modulate pain during times of stress. 

There are a few studies to examine when trying to understand the relationship to pain and weather or not cannabis actually works as an effective pain killer. A 2006 study examined the effects of increased cannabis doses of oral cannabis extracts on postoperative pain. The 14 subjects were given different doses of cannabis and could ask for rescue pain relief if they didn’t get adequate pain relief from the cannabis dose. They found that 11 of the 14 subjects requested pain relief following the 5 mg dose. When given 10 mg, 6 of the 14 subjects requested rescue pain relief. Finally, when the subjects were given 15 mg, only 3 of the 14 requested pain relief. The doses were stopped at 15 mg because one of the patients suffered serious adverse effects. 

A similar but separate study examined the pain relieving benefits of cannabis on advanced cancer patients who experienced severe and chronic pain. The patients were all sent cannabis pills each day that were identical, but contained different doses of THC. They found that the higher doses (between 15 mg – 20 mg) provided the most pain relief, but also had stronger adverse effects such as dizziness and anxiety. Cannabis has also been compared to codeine. It has been found that less THC is required than codeine to get similar pain relief. Patients have also reported less anxiety and adverse effects with THC.

The takeaway

There is strong evidence that cannabis does indeed help battle various types of pain. It is agreed among professionals and academics that more research is needed to fully understand how and why cannabis is an effective painkiller. The point that cannabis will be effective against pain is highly individualized. In general, higher doses of cannabis will provide greater pain relief, but will also provide greater psychoactive effects as well. It is also important to note that different methods of consumption will also produce different effects. Topicals provide localized relief where cannabis ingested via inhalation or an edible will provide a more broad experience, but also carry more intense side effects. Speak to your local physician if you are considering using cannabis medicinally. A friendly Buddy Boy Brands budtender will help you decide what products are best for your specific needs. As always, consume responsibly. 

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