Medical Marijuana – A Good Alternative to Opioids?

One of the most popular and well-known uses of medical marijuana is as a pain reliever. People suffering from a wide variety of conditions claim that it eases their pain just as well as, and sometimes even better than, typically prescribed painkillers. In particular, marijuana is often seen as a good alternative to the use of opioid medication.

People who are considering using marijuana for their pain should rightly be asking whether these purported benefits have actually been scientifically studied or if they are going to have to rely strictly on anecdotal evidence. The good news is that the use of marijuana for pain has been studied extensively over the years, and the findings are very promising for prospective patients.

Researchers have found that the use of marijuana is beneficial for pain regardless of what specific condition the pain is resulting from. For example, it can ease the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, and it can also help patients who are dealing with pain resulting from cancer and cancer treatment. Marijuana has likewise been used to effectively decrease pain perception in patients suffering from neuropathy, as well as in patients who have HIV-associated neuropathic pain. In all of these cases marijuana has been found to be as effective as the other oral drugs which are more commonly administered for such conditions.

But is marijuana also safe and well-tolerated? The answer to this question would be a big, resounding “yes.” Researchers consistently report that marijuana is physically safe to use, and that the minor side effects which sometimes accompany its use are very well tolerated and generally not seen as much of a problem by study participants. The most commonly reported side effects are dry eyes, dry mouth, and sometimes mild dizziness, all of which are easily dealt with.

Marijuana has been shown to help with more than just pain. Many patients, particularly those struggling with the symptoms of HIV, also report that their mood and all-around quality of life has been greatly improved by marijuana use.

These findings offer quite a contrast to the class of pain relieving drugs known as opioids, which are often used to treat the pain associated with many of the conditions discussed above. Opioids have a variety of adverse side effects, many of which can put the patient at great physical and mental risk. They can produce tolerance, addiction, nausea, constipation, drowsiness, and many other negative effects.

Unfortunately, it is usually the case today that marijuana is only seen as an option once a patient has tried and reacted negatively to other conventional drugs and methods. Given all of the sound findings, however, it seems reasonable to suggest that medical marijuana should be explored as one of the primary treatment options when it comes to helping patients manage their pain, not as something to try only once all other efforts have failed.