Pain relievers are medicines that reduce or relieve headaches, sore muscles, arthritis, or other aches and pains. There are many different pain medicines, and each one has advantages and risks. Some types of pain respond better to certain medicines than others. Each person may also have a slightly different response to a pain reliever.
Recent years have brought a wealth of new scientific understanding regarding how medical marijuana cannabis can be beneficial for treating Pain.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are good for many types of pain. There are two main types of OTC pain medicines: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are examples of OTC NSAIDs.
If OTC medicines don’t relieve your pain, your doctor may prescribe something stronger. Many NSAIDs are also available at higher prescription doses. The most powerful pain relievers are narcotics. They are very effective, but they can sometimes have serious side effects. Because of the risks, you must use them only under a doctor’s supervision.
There are many things you can do to help ease pain. Pain relievers are just one part of a pain treatment plan.
Analgesic the Beauty of Cannabis PAIN Relief
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.
What You Don’t Know About Cannabis and Pain
Not all Analgesic is equal
Pain relief can be tricky, since not all pain is the same. Pain can be cancer-related or neuropathic. It can be central pain (related to multiple sclerosis) or it can be visceral (related to the gut). Pain can also be acute and short-lived or chronic, lasting for months or years. Normally for acute pain, such as the kind you may experience after an injury or an operation, or neuropathic pain which is related to a whole host of diseases such as diabetes or cancer, doctors will prescribe opiates or NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
However, opiates and NSAIDS are less effective in treating chronic pain. Both have adverse side-effects, including nausea, stroke, erectile dysfunction, heart-attack, hepatoxicity. Opiates often cause sedation that make long-term opiate use burdensome to the user. Plus, long-term use of traditional pain relievers builds tolerance, meaning that for these analgesics to continue to be effective, users must consistently increase their dosage. This can also lead to accidental overdose.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Research has proven time and time again that cannabis can be employed to relieve pain without the adverse side-effects that come from synthetic analgesics.
A 2008 double-blind, randomized clinical trial at the University of California Davis found that both high and low doses of inhaled cannabis reduced neuropathic pain of various causes. The subjects who participated in the study were chosen for their unresponsiveness to standard pain therapies.
In another clinical trial conducted in 2013, researchers reported that both inhaled and oral THC decreased pain significantly. The trial exposed healthy subjects to painful stimuli and discovered that the subjects had decreased pain sensitivity and increased pain tolerance with the use of either smoked or orally-administered THC.
Also in 2013, a clinical trial provided evidence that vaporized cannabis had a strong impact on neuropathic pain. Low doses of vaporized THC (1.29%) “provided statistically significant 30% reductions in pain intensity when compared to placebo.”
There is also strong evidence that the compound THCa is highly effective in treating pain. THCa is the more commonly known compound THC before it’s dried and burned. In this raw state, THCa is non-psychoactive and has anti-proliferative, anti-spasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s anti-inflammatory properties are responsible for reducing the pain of ailments from arthritis to endometriosis and even menstrual cramps.
Dr. William Courtney of Mendocino County is leading a growing number of patients and caregivers who believe that THCa has numerous medicinal qualities that are lost when cannabis is dried. He is a proponent of juicing raw cannabis for its many health benefits from THCa, including the relief his wife, Kristen Peskuski, experiences from her chronic Lupus.
While more studies need to be conducted, there is plenty of evidence that cannabis is highly effective in moderating pain. These studies have shown that smoking, vaporizing, and taking administering oral cannabis can all reduce various kinds of pain.
Not all strains are equal
But just like there are many different varieties of pain, the varieties of cannabis strains are vast. With over 400 active pharmacological compounds found in cannabis that can be used to treat a range of ailments, there are countless ways to mix and match components and create specific strains to treat an array of ailments, and of course, all kinds of pain.
I mentioned earlier that cannabis is almost too good to be true, and this becomes even more apparent when you see how many of the compounds in cannabis can be used to treat various ailments. Active components such as cannabinoids work alongside terpenoids (also known as terpenes) and flavonoids to offer a multiplicity of benefits for the human body. Some of the active compounds that work to fight pain are CBC, CBD, CBG4, D9-THC, THCA-C4, THCYA, CBLA, CBNA, Linalool, and Myrcene. By combining a number of these cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, you can create the perfect pain relief solution in your own backyard. Or, of course you can go down to your friendly neighborhood dispensary (if you reside in a legalized state) and purchase one of these pain-fighting strains:
Strains that fight Analgesic Problems
For wounds, muscle, and back pain, try Afghan Kush. This strain is nearly all indica, which means its effects will mostly be physical. It has a high dosage of THC which is notorious for pain relief as well as a number of analgesic terpenes such as Humulene, Caryophyllene, and Terpinoline.
If you’re experiencing neuropathic chronic pain due to either tissue damage or damage to the central nervous system, then the strain Jack Herer might be a good option for you. This strain is mostly sativa and has an energizing effect. Like Afghan Kush, Jack Herer also features high levels of THC, but has a host of other compounds and terpenes that make this strain specifically beneficial for treating neuropathic pain such as Pinene, Myrcene, Caryophyllene, and Humulene.
If arthritis and inflammation is what’s getting you down, try Harlequin. Harlequin is very high in CBD which interacts with the CB2 receptors in our bodies. In one study, it was found that mice who didn’t have CB2 receptors have weaker bones. From this it was determined that CBD is very beneficial in treating symptoms of arthritis, particularly the inflammatory and pain parts. Harlequin features a 5 to 2 ratio of CBD to THC as well as other anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving compounds and terpenes, including CBC, CBG, Myrcene, and Pinene. It’s also interesting to note that CBD is not a psychoactive component like THC is, which means that you won’t get the trippy effects of the other two.
It is becoming more and more evident that cannabis is a natural pain reliever that doesn’t have any of the nasty effects of traditional pain medications. With more research and more push back against the federal ban on marijuana, we may soon see a day when prescribing various strains of cannabis is the norm for treating all varieties of pain.