Use of Marijuana to Treat Chronic Pain

A face grimacing with chronic painMany people suffer from chronic pain for a variety of different reasons. No matter what the cause of the pain is, chronic pain can be hard to deal with, affecting both the physical and mental health of sufferers.

Furthermore, many of the medications available for chronic pain management can cause problems of their own. Typical pain relievers, some of which require a prescription but many of which are available over-the-counter, can come with serious side effects and a high risk of death from overdose.

This has led doctors and researchers to look for alternatives to help patients deal with chronic pain. Based on the copious amounts of research, marijuana is currently looking like the perfect choice.

Neuropathic pain

There have been many studies done on marijuana use for neuropathic pain. Among the most recent are two 2008 and 2013 studies from The Journal of Pain, and a 2010 study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

While these studies had different methods, all three agreed that marijuana provided an effective and, most importantly, safe alternative to traditional painkillers. None found that the adverse effects, such as dry eyes and mild dizziness, were dangerous and anything more than an annoyance.

HIV-associated neuropathic pain

Marijuana has also been studied for its effectiveness in managing HIV-associated neuropathy. A randomized, placebo-controlled study carried out in 2010 found that smoked cannabis was just as effective as the oral drugs commonly used for neuropathic pain in HIV sufferers, and that it was “well-tolerated.”

A 2009 study from Neuropsychopharmacology reported similar findings. This study also found that not only did patients experience a decrease in pain, but that their mood and their daily functioning improved significantly as well.

Cancer-related pain

Marijuana provides relief to cancer caused pain.A powerhouse of a study about marijuana and cancer-related pain came out in 2010 and was published in theJournal of Pain and Symptom Management. The study was randomized, double-blind, multicenter, placebo-controlled, and parallel-group. If you don’t understand what any of that means, then all you need to know is that this kind of setup provides trustworthy findings.

And what were those findings? That THC and CBD (two compounds found in marijuana) are an effective alternative to strong and dangerous opioids for patients with cancer pain.

Other forms of chronic pain

Marijuana has also been shown to be effective for chronic pain not caused by cancer or HIV, but instead by disorders such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. Published in 2011, one study concluded that marijuana is safe and effective, but also called for larger studies of longer duration to be carried out in the future.

Pain in healthy volunteers

Finally, in an interesting twist, researchers took healthy, pain-free volunteers, injected capsaicin into their forearms, and attempted to discover if smoked cannabis would reduce the pain. The study found that moderate doses significantly decreased participant’s pain, while high doses paradoxically increased it.

The study was small and the setup may not mirror true chronic pain, but it is still nevertheless one more piece of evidence that, at the right dose, marijuana is a fantastic alternative to other pain relievers.