Medical Marijuana for Pain

Medical Marijuana for Pain

According to Harvard Health, “The most common use for medical marijuana in the United States is for pain control.”

According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, medical marijuana has been used as a medical treatment for more than 3,000 years. Throughout its history, medical marijuana has been used for conditions such as pain relief, digestive issues, and psychological disorders. Pain can be a symptom of many medical conditions and a diagnosis by itself. Living with chronic pain is also linked to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Because pain is a widespread problem, scientists continue to look for effective treatments while patients are looking for safe forms of relief. Research shows that medical marijuana may be an effective, safe treatment for pain, but more studies are needed. Many patients are already convinced that medical marijuana helps them, and the use of medical marijuana is growing in the United States.

Controlling Pain

Results from a recent study revealed that more than 62% of individuals who use medical cannabis do so to treat chronic pain. It is estimated that 2.1 million Americans use medical cannabis. Researchers have found that 80% of people enrolled in clinical trials and studies reported pain as the main reason they use medical marijuana. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 2.5% of the global population uses marijuana yearly, making it the most frequently used drug worldwide.

In a recent comprehensive review looked at the health effects of medical marijuana and CBD. CBD is related to medical marijuana, but CBD does not contain THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces the feeling of being high. Instead, CBD has been found to have may other health-related benefits related to its chemical structure and makeup.

The National Academies of Sciences determined that adult patients with chronic pain who were treated with medical marijuana and CBD were more likely to demonstrate a reduction in pain symptoms.

Researchers rated these effects as modest, but many patients report significant pain relief. Other studies show that medical marijuana provides relief for cancer-related pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, and other pain conditions. Additional studies show that medical marijuana may offer pain relief for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and various other types of acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Over the Counter and Prescription Pain Medications and Opioid Use Versus Medical Marijuana Use

Researchers have a hard time determining exactly how many people suffer from pain. Because pain is both a symptom and a medical diagnosis, different reporting methods do not accurately reflect its prevalence. Pain is also subjective, meaning people experience it differently. When compiling data, researchers have found that many studies are limited in the types of pain they monitor and may miss other kinds of pain that patients experience because patients do not all experience or report pain in the same way.

Despite these difficulties, WHO used data from its World Mental Health Survey to estimate that 37% of the population experiences pain. In the United States, millions of people experience pain from acute and chronic conditions, and many live with pain daily.

For those who suffer from pain, over the counter medications don’t always provide relief. This type of medication might help mild or acute pain like a headache or sprained ankle, but over the counter medications are usually not effective for controlling long term, chronic pain. Patients often use prescription pain medications for chronic pain.

Non-opioid prescription pain medications may have serious side effects, and their relief may decrease over time. When other medications aren’t effective, patients may use prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl.

Opioid use carries a high risk of abuse and overdose. According to the Addiction Center, the sale of opioid painkillers has increased by 300% since 1999. It is estimated that 20-30% of people who take opioids abuse them, and 10% become addicted. Overdoses involving opioids, including prescription medications, have increased almost six times since 1999. Opioids account for nearly 70% of all overdose deaths.

Studies show that medical marijuana has fewer and milder side effects than most other pain medications. The risk for addiction, overdose, and death is also significantly lower than for opioid medications. Research indicates that medical marijuana may even effectively and safely replace opioid use for pain relief.

Pain is a problem for millions of Americans. Finding effective pain control medications without serious side effects or a high risk of abuse and overdose is a growing issue. Many patients use medical marijuana for pain relief because of these benefits.