Imagine finding relief from chronic pain without the risk of addiction or harmful side effects. For millions of people suffering from chronic pain, medical cannabis has emerged as a promising alternative to traditional pain medications.
Let’s explore the science, types of pain treated, and role of healthcare professionals in managing pain with cannabis.
Cannabis’ capacity for reducing pain stems from its interaction with our endocannabinoid system (ECS). This network of receptors has a significant role in controlling several physiological processes, such as pain modulation and inflammation.
The two key components of cannabis responsible for pain relief are: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
These compounds interact with the ECS, specifically CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are involved in pain modulation and inflammation.
Although THC and CBD both possess therapeutic properties, their differences are significant.
On the other hand, CBD has a weak affinity for these receptors and does not directly bind to them but can still modulate pain perception through indirect interactions.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is responsible for controlling various bodily functions, including:
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is made up of two primary receptors: CB1 and CB2. These are cannabinoid receptors, specifically type 1 and type 2. These receptors are present throughout the body, including the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells.
Interaction with the ECS enables THC and CBD to manage pain and inflammation, offering respite to those enduring chronic pain.
CB1 and CB2 receptors play a significant role in the pain-relieving effects of cannabis. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the central and peripheral nervous systems, particularly in the brain centers involved in pain modulation.
CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are primarily found in the immune and hematopoietic systems.
THC binds directly to both receptors, demonstrating a strong affinity, whereas CBD can indirectly interact with them, altering their binding with THC.
Activation of these receptors by cannabis can efficiently alleviate various types of chronic pain by reducing pain and inflammation.
Cannabis has proven effective in managing different types of chronic pain, such as:
Its adaptability in treating different pain conditions makes it an alternative solution for individuals seeking to treat chronic pain and relieve pain from constant discomfort.
Let’s look at the role of cannabis in aiding each of these chronic pain conditions.
Neuropathic pain, caused by damage to the nerves, can manifest as a burning, tingling, or shooting sensation.
Cannabis, particularly THC and CBD, has been shown to possess analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, reducing pain perception and alleviating the inflammation and spasms associated with neuropathic pain.
Research indicates that cannabis usage can lessen the severity of both spontaneous and provoked pain in those with neuropathic pain, providing pain reduction, better sleep, and improved overall well-being for individuals with peripheral neuropathy. This makes it a viable option for treating neuropathic pain.
Cancer pain can be debilitating and difficult to manage with traditional painkillers. Cannabis has been found to effectively reduce pain levels, decrease the need for other medications, including opioids, and improve sleep quality for cancer patients.
THC and CBD play a significant role in managing cancer pain by modulating pain perception and reducing inflammation.
Furthermore, products maintaining a balanced THC and CBD ratio have been reported as effective in relieving cancer pain.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by:
Research suggests that medical cannabis can be a viable treatment option for fibromyalgia pain, providing pain relief and improvement in symptoms.
THC and CBD have been shown to help in pain regulation, decrease chronic pain, and enhance sleep quality for individuals suffering from fibromyalgia.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disorder affecting the central nervous system. Pain is a common symptom for those with MS, and cannabis has been shown to help alleviate this pain and improve patients’ quality of life.
High-CBD strains have been reported to be particularly effective for MS patients, providing relief from pain, inflammation, and anxiety.
Medical cannabis could be a safer substitute for opioids for pain relief. Cannabis use can lessen opioid medication usage and lead to fewer side effects. In one study, 30% of medical cannabis users used opioids within the last six months, and 97% of them reported a reduction in opioid usage when taking cannabis.
The opioid epidemic has led to devastating outcomes, with most overdose deaths involving opioids. Since the late 1990s, the rise in opioid overdose deaths has been continuously escalating. Both prescribed opioids and illicit opioids, such as fentanyl, contribute to opioid-related deaths.
The opioid crisis has a significant effect on public health, creating a high risk of overdose and death for those with opioid addiction. The potential of cannabis as a safer substitute for pain relief could potentially ease the severity of the opioid epidemic.
Research suggests a link between cannabis use and reduced opioid analgesic use. Studies have shown that cannabis can enhance the pain-relieving effects of opioids, leading to a lower total dosage being used.
Additionally, cannabis provides sufficient pain relief on its own, reducing the need for higher doses of opioids.
The potential of cannabis as an opioid substitute could help lessen the use of opiate medications and subsequently lower the risks linked to opioid addiction and overdose.
Several forms of medical cannabis are available for pain management, each presenting unique advantages and disadvantages.
The ‘entourage effect’ is a crucial concept when understanding the benefits of full-plant cannabis, especially for medical patients. This principle suggests that the combined effect of cannabis’s natural components, including cannabinoids and terpenes, is more significant than the sum of its parts. By using the whole plant, patients receive a broader spectrum of therapeutic compounds, leading to more effective treatment outcomes.
In essence, full-plant cannabis offers a comprehensive approach to healing. Its diverse range of natural elements works together, enhancing its overall therapeutic potential. This holistic approach can be particularly beneficial for medical patients seeking a more complete and synergistic method of treatment.
Products like vapes or oils often use just one part of the cannabis plant. For example, they might use CBD, a substance found in cannabis that can help with health problems. But the cannabis plant has much more to offer.
Cannabis oil is an extract obtained through the use of ethanol and is typically administered orally in small amounts. It has been suggested that cannabis oil can reduce inflammation, alleviate muscular aches and joint pain, and facilitate wound healing.
Additionally, it may provide localized relief and could be efficacious for chronic pain caused by injuries. Patients should consult with a healthcare professional for personalized dosage recommendations before using cannabis oil for pain management.
Topical treatments, such as creams and balms infused with cannabis, can be applied directly to the skin to provide localized pain relief. These treatments can reduce inflammation, alleviate muscle and joint pain, and improve skin conditions.
Transdermal patches containing cannabinoids are also available and can be applied to the skin for targeted pain relief.
Topical treatments offer a non-invasive and targeted approach to pain management, making them an appealing option for many patients seeking pain control and effective pain treatment without the psychoactive effects associated with smoking.
Cannabis edibles are food items infused with cannabis derivatives, such as THC or CBD. They operate to alleviate pain by engaging with the body’s endocannabinoid system, diminishing pain signals, and providing relief.
Cannabis edibles have been found to be an effective form of treatment for various types of pain, including:
However, the delayed onset of effects and difficulties in dosing make edibles a less predictable form of pain relief compared to other methods.
Sublingual cannabis involves placing cannabis extracts from tinctures or sprays under the tongue, allowing the cannabinoids to be absorbed through the thin membranes beneath the tongue and enter the bloodstream.
This method provides quick relief from pain, making it an attractive option for those seeking fast-acting and discreet pain relief.
Exercise caution when dosing sublingual cannabis due to its fast-acting nature, and patients should consult with a healthcare professional for individualized dosing recommendations.
Healthcare professionals play a significant role in pain management with cannabis. They provide patient education, monitor treatment progress, and collaborate interprofessionally to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients.
By working together, healthcare professionals can help patients navigate the complexities of medical cannabis use and develop effective pain management strategies tailored to their individual needs.
Healthcare professionals, such as pharmacists, can provide care for patients using medical cannabis therapies while following applicable laws.
By working closely with healthcare professionals, patients can receive the best possible care and guidance when using medical cannabis therapies.
A structured approach with low dose cannabis initiation, slow titration, dose optimization, and frequent monitoring is recommended for monitoring a patient’s progress when utilizing medical cannabis for pain relief.
Regular consultations with healthcare professionals and monitoring of symptoms are also advised.
Interprofessional collaboration is essential when treating chronic pain patients with medical cannabis. Effective collaboration between different disciplines, such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and therapists, guarantees the best possible outcome for patients.
By sharing knowledge, expertise, and resources, healthcare professionals can formulate individualized treatment plans, observe patient progress, and ensure optimal results.
TeleLeaf’s commitment to authenticity, patient-focused care, and collaboration is unwavering, as we tirelessly work to break stigmas and provide credible, comprehensive medical cannabis solutions.
Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in Fibromyalgia – NIH
Medical Cannabis Use Is Associated With Decreased Opiate Medication Use in a Retrospective Cross-Sectional Survey of Patients With Chronic Pain – The Journal of Pain
Cannabis as a Substitute for Opioid-Based Pain Medication: Patient Self-Report – NIH