Cannabis vs. Pain: How a Flower Eases Chronic Pain
By Nicholas Demski
The Growing Evidence of Cannabis’ Efficacy in the Treatment of Pain
There’s an unfortunate discrepancy between what science knows and what the United States’ Federal Government deems as valid. That difference casts an ugly shadow over the use of medical cannabis.
Medical cannabis has repeatedly been shown to reduce pain for a variety of ailments by universities and research institutes across the world. When the Federal Government finally decides to come to terms with the evidence, medical cannabis will prove to be an effective means of treating pain.
Here are four ways that cannabis helps people who suffer from chronic pain.
Cannabis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
People who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease face a host of problems. Immense pain is just one of them. They’re also unable to enjoy their food properly and must make constant trips to the bathroom. Overall, the quality-of-life with IBD is comparatively low to healthy individuals.
Unfortunately, IBD sufferers find that traditional medicines do little to help them experience relief from their symptoms. This is where cannabis comes into play.
The gastrointestinal tract is lined with endocannabinoid receptors. Unsurprisingly, smoking or vaporizing cannabis alters the biome of the gut as the cannabinoids bind to the ECS receptors. For example, a person experiencing severe nausea due to their IBD can relieve the symptoms by moderating their gut’s biome through the consumption of cannabis.
According to a study performed by Gastroenterology and Hepatology, activated CB2 receptors in the body inhibit the pain response from the gut. For those experiencing pain, IBD sufferers can consume cannabis to activate the CB2 receptors in their body and quickly mitigate the pain they suffer as a result of their disease.
Cannabis and Spinal Nerve Pain
Of the roughly 300,000 people in the United States who’ve suffered spinal cord injuries, many of them face lifelong problems. Sustaining a spinal cord injury can result in instantaneous death; however, those who survive are likely to face paraplegia, quadriplegia, or at a bare minimum, severe, lifelong pain.
As with those who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, pain treatment for spinal cord injuries is lacking. Modern drugs are either insufficient or carry severe risks. Cannabis, however, helps SCI patients moderate their chronic pain with fewer risks.
As Dr. Gregory T. Carter–the Medical Director at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, the University of Washington’s Medical School–points out, “the cannabinoids activate specific receptors found throughout the body to produce pharmacological effects, particularly in the central nervous system.” When cannabinoids pass into the bloodstream, they bind to cannabis receptors in the nervous system where they regulate pain perception.
Cannabis and Migraines
A study by Current Neuropharmacology defines migraines as “a vasomotor headache characterized by its pulsatile nature, the presentation of crises, and its periodic occurrence.” Sufferers are often sensitive to light and noise and undergo nausea and vomiting. Cannabis has shown to have a positive impact on all migraine symptoms, including chronic pain.
Due to the speed of relief from inhalation, the same study suggests that smoking or vaporizing cannabis is the most effective route of administration. Reportedly, this method has been employed to treat migraines since the early 20th century. The authors affirm that the use of cannabis for pain relief in migraine sufferers is comparable–or even better than–the relief found from modern medicine.
For people who suffer from migraines, rapid mitigation of their pain is essential to improving their quality of life. Thanks to the medicinal benefits of cannabis, timely pain mitigation is just a few puffs away.
Cannabis and Cancer
Cancer is the most infamous disease a human can suffer. It can happen to anyone, is known for needing radical treatments, and has a disturbingly high morbidity rate. The stigma behind its diagnosis is well-known and equally feared.
Unfortunately, many cancer patients face chemotherapy. The treatment has a severe negative impact on a patient’s quality of life. Combined with the disease, modern procedures are excessively painful and debilitating. Thankfully, cannabis’ therapeutic and analgesic effects extend to cancer and its chronic pain.
Even though the American Cancer Society has not taken a position on the legalization of medical marijuana, they do admit that “studies have found that inhaled marijuana can be helpful in the treatment of neuropathic pain.” Likewise, the National Cancer Institute stops short of taking a position on medical marijuana by stating the need for more research. Meanwhile, they quickly concede, “cannabinoids may have benefits in treating the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer therapies.”
Centrist organizations that receive government funding, like the ACS and the NCI, stop short of a fully endorsing medical marijuana for cancer patients. However, this does not dampen the worldwide research behind the efficacy of cannabinoids against pain in cancer patients, a fact they readily admit.
In general, cannabinoids regulate pain by interacting with endocannabinoid system present in the human body. This interaction– and subsequent pain relief–can be used to treat a wide range of diseases that produce pain in their sufferers. Future research will likely corroborate this fact.
The Federal Government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug is the only thing holding back researchers from thoroughly verifying cannabis’ efficacy against pain; this must change for the sake of pain sufferers everywhere.