5 Facts About Marijuana for Chronic Pain

5 Facts About Marijuana for Chronic Pain

According to a 2018 publication by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic pain is the most common reason adults seek medical care. Chronic pain can not only be uncomfortable, it can also be debilitating. 

There are countless pharmaceutical options for pain relief, but millions of people have started to turn to marijuana for relief from chronic pain. Marijuana is part of the cannabis plant family and is rich in the cannabinoid THC. There are over 100 other cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. These all have unique interactions with the body and in many cases, work together (called the entourage effect) to heighten the benefits of marijuana for chronic pain relief. 

1. Chronic Pain is the Largest Marijuana Use Case

A 2017 survey published in the Journal of Health Affairs found ​that 84.6 percent of respondents with a qualifying condition to consume medical marijuana found symptomatic relief for “evidence-based conditions.” Chronic pain stood at the top of the list, with 62.2 percent of people using marijuana for chronic pain.

2. Every Animal Has a Natural System That Interacts with Cannabis

This is the part of your body they probably didn’t tell you about in anatomy class. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vast network of chemical compounds and receptors that exist naturally in the body and serve the purpose of maintaining homeostasis (balance in the body). 

In fact, every vertebrate has an ECS. The components of the ECS are expressed throughout the pain processing pathways, underlining its key modulatory role in pain perception. Cannabinoids like THC may enhance the efficacy of this system.

3. The NFL Funds Cannabis Research

Educational institutions often operate on federal research grants, which limits the type of research they can conduct, especially when it comes to marijuana. The NFL Pain Management Committee and Player’s Association has the ability to provide private grants for the study of cannabis and pain management. $1 million has been allotted in 2021 for cannabis research to help find better ways for professional football players to cope with chronic pain.

Dr. Kevin Hill, the co-chair of the NFL Pain Management Committee, Director of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the author of “Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed,” said that the current level of interest in the use of medical marijuana far exceeds the level of evidence available. The purpose of the research is to explore using marijuana for pain as a safe and effective alternative for athletes.

4. You Don’t Have to Be “High” to Get Relief

Though using marijuana for pain relief may imply that you will need to be “stoned” or “high,” that is not always the case. The psychoactive properties of THC come from the direct interaction with natural endocannabinoid receptors in the body. Stereotypical psychoactive effects may include changes in mood, drowsiness, cravings, and impaired motor skills. 

Many people find that small doses of marijuana for chronic pain have a significant impact without the red eyes or euphoric feeling. Researchers have also recommended starting with a low dose and increasing slowly to find your optimal level. 

The pharmacists at our medical marijuana dispensary can help you determine the best place to start for you to achieve the results you are looking for, and follow up with you along the journey. There is no “one size fits all” prescription with cannabis, so we work with every patient to meet them where they are and recommend products based on their goals and preferences. 

5. Smoking Isn’t the Only Option for Using Marijuana for Chronic Pain

Inhalation and Sublingual

The most common method of consumption for marijuana is inhalation. This can be accomplished in a number of ways including smoking the raw flower, vaporizing flower or extracted oil, and through the usage of various pieces of equipment. 

Inhalation and sublingual (under the tongue) consumption are the most bioavailable methods of using marijuana for chronic pain, meaning they offer the best absorption of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Holding marijuana tincture under your tongue allows the cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream and avoid being metabolized in the liver. 

It is a good idea to consult with your pharmacist for proper dosing whenever you switch consumption methods.

Edibles

Edibles are another option that comes in many different forms. Capsules and tablets are considered edibles because they are ingested orally. Brownies, cookies, and other baked goods are classic forms of marijuana edibles. 

Edibles take longer to digest but are often the most palatable for people who don’t enjoy the taste of marijuana. Keep in mind that edibles from a dispensary may range from 5mg THC to 200mg THC, so be sure to check with your pharmacist about the proper dosage for your chronic pain symptoms and goals.

Topicals

Endocannabinoid receptors exist throughout the body, including directly under the skin. Most topical applications of THC are formulated to penetrate the transdermal layer to quickly ease soreness in muscles and joints. This allows for local relief, but without the psychoactive effects that are experienced from smoking or ingestion.

Thinking of Becoming a Medical Marijuana Patient?

If you are interested in the therapeutic benefits of marijuana for chronic pain, you may want to consider becoming a Connecticut medical marijuana patient. The State of CT requires that you speak with a physician/APRN to become certified based on your qualifying health condition prior to applying as a patient at a Connecticut medical marijuana dispensary. 

Fine Fettle’s team of helpful and knowledgeable staff can help you through the application process and get you on the path to relieve chronic pain naturally with plant medicine. 

Citations

  1. Dahlhamer J, Lucas J, Zelaya, C, et al. Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:1001–1006.
  2. Boehnke K, Gangopadhyay S, J. Clauw D. and Haffajee, R – Qualifying Conditions Of Medical Cannabis License Holders In The United States Feb, 2009
  3. Burston, J., & Woodhams, S. (2014). Endocannabinoid system and pain: An introduction. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 73(1), 106-117. doi:10.1017/S0029665113003650
  4. Bauttista J. NFL, NFLPA will provide funding for research into pain treatment, including medical marijuana, June 2021
  5. Bhaskar, A., Bell, A., Boivin, M. et al. Consensus recommendations on dosing and administration of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain: results of a modified Delphi process. J Cannabis Res 3, 22 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-021-00073-1
  6. Huestis MA. Human cannabinoid pharmacokinetics. Chem Biodivers. 2007;4(8):1770-1804. doi:10.1002/cbdv.200790152