The matter of medical marijuana pushing to be finally considered a genuinely viable alternative has now indeed hit the mainstream. In addition to its already controversial and sensitive nature, unending debates have surrounded the matter towards the question: “What motivates people to use it the most?”
Recent studies have shown that cannabis isn’t just there to be consumed recreationally. It has been proven that regulated and everyday use may help or ultimately treat a person dealing with various chronic pain.
Before we begin highlighting the advantages and proven reasons on how daily use of marijuana can help chronic pain patients and their dependency to other more hazardous alternatives such as opioids, let us first discuss what exactly is chronic pain.
What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is what its name says. It is a type of pain that is persistent and can affect an individual for 12 grueling weeks and even longer. And those estimated timelines have already taken into factor the use of medication or treatment. While some may shrug off chronic pain like it is just a small thing, this condition can be worse if kept unchecked.
An initial injury, such as a sprain or a pulled muscle from a specific part of the body is what usually causes chronic pain. Expert medical practitioners believe that chronic pain starts to develop right after an individual’s nerves got damaged. That particular nerve damage is where the pain comes from and is what makes it that more intense and long-lasting. In such cases, treating the underlying injury may not necessarily resolve the chronic pain one may already be experiencing.
However, in some other cases, people suffer from chronic pain even without any prior injuries. These particular cases of chronic pain without any injury are still under heavy observation as it is still considered a mystery even to the most proficient in the field. With that said, such pain may sometimes be attributed to an already underlying health condition such as the following:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: is an extreme and lengthened feeling of exhaustion that is then accompanied by great pain
- Endometriosis: is a disorder that is painful and usually occurs when the lining of the uterus grows out of the uterus itself
- Fibromyalgia: is the pain in the bones and muscles that is widespread
- Inflammatory bowel disease: conditions that cause pain and chronic inflammation in an individual’s digestive tract
- Interstitial cystitis: is a persistent disorder highlighted by bladder pressure and pain
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ): is a condition that causes painful jaw clicking, popping, or locking.
- Vulvodynia: is a chronic vulva pain that occurs with no apparent cause
How does Marijuana Work for Pain?
The capability of the marijuana plant as a proven treatment for chronic pain can be attributed to its several compounds that relieve nausea, anxiety, and many more. The components of marijuana that most studies continually focus on when it comes to reducing one’s pain are THC and CBD. The tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Firstly, THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. The THC is the cannabinoid chemical that happens naturally within our very body. When people take in THC, whether by inhalation or ingestion, it stimulates their brain’s receptors for cannabinoids. This, in turn, activates the brain’s reward system and effectively reduces its pain levels. THC is a compound that has psychoactive effects that can bind to the cannabinoid receptors and produces a heightened state of mind. Simply speaking, THC is capable of getting an individual ‘high’.
CBD, on the other hand, does not cause such a state to an individual. It does not cause high. With that said, it is also capable of interacting with our pain receptors that are responsible for exerting pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
Marijuana as an Alternative Treatment for Chronic Pain Instead of Opioids
Year in and year out, further studies have clearly shown and concluded the positive effects that regulated use of marijuana can deliver to an individual’s body. Aside from the usual reports of marijuana as a viable treatment for anxiety and sleeping orders, it has also been proven that the plant could also help and finally relieve the chronic pain of a particular individual. Some studies have used some of its parts while some used it entirely. Thus, more research is undoubtedly needed. Using targeted sections of the cannabis plant such as CBD oils helps the study of specific actions for that particular ingredient. Meanwhile, when the whole plant is used, it is observed that the parts work together and has more effect, they refer to this as the entourage effect.
Statistical model research from the years 2014 to 2017 by the British Columbia Centre on Substance Abuse (BCCSU) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) has shown that people who use cannabis every day have a 50% lower odds of engaging in illicit opioids compared to those that do not. This lessens the chance of over-dependence of an individual to more harmful substances such as opioids to relieve their persistent pain.
They have also found out that there may be an intentional therapeutic element that can be associated with the daily use of cannabis. As an example, regular marijuana users are observed to have more likely to report several therapeutic uses of cannabis such as pain-relieving, dealing with stress, nausea, improving mental health, and improving sleep. Such findings strongly suggest that some people who use drugs to treat their ongoing chronic pain might be using cannabis as a self-directed strategy to reduce the frequent use of opioids.
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