Cannabis Use Rising Among, folks. Cannabis for Chronic Pain Patients
People are looking for novel, nonaddictive ways to treat pain and are turning toward Cannabis for Chronic Pain.
Given the ongoing challenges of chronic pain management coupled with the consequences of the opioid epidemic, pain management practitioners and their patients are searching for effective and safer alternatives to opioids to alleviate pain. More patients are turning to Cannabis for Chronic Pain.
With the legalization of marijuana in many states and resulting cultural acceptance of this drug for recreational and medical use, there has been an increased interest in using cannabis for a myriad of medical problems, including pain.
Cannabis (most commonly obtained from the Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa plants) has three major components: cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. While there are over a hundred different cannabinoids, the two major components are tetrahydrocannabional (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Historically more attention has been paid to the psychoactive (euphoric “getting high”) component of the cannabis plant, THC; there have been fewer scientific studies on the medical use of CBD, a non-psychoactive component of the plant.
What’s the thinking behind using cannabis for chronic pain?
CBD is emerging as a promising pharmaceutical agent to treat pain, inflammation, seizures, and anxiety without the psychoactive effects of THC. Our understanding of the role of CBD in pain management continues to evolve, and evidence from animal studies has shown that CBD exerts its pain-relieving effects through its various interactions and modulation of the endocannabinoid, inflammatory, and nociceptive (pain sensing) systems. The endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors that interact with our own naturally occurring cannabinoids. This system is involved in regulating many functions in the body, including metabolism and appetite, mood and anxiety, and pain perception.
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The percentage of chronic pain patients using cannabis therapeutically is increasing, according to data published in the journal Advances in Therapy. And what we need to know!
Investigators affiliated with Harvard Medical School assessed trends in cannabis use among pain patients in a nationally representative sample during the years 2011 to 2015.
Authors reported, “Over the course of our study, … we identified a significant and progressive increase in the number of patients using cannabis. In patients with chronic pain, cannabis use more than doubled during this period.”
They reported that the average age of chronic pain patients who consumed cannabis was 45 and that the majority of users were lower on the socioeconomic scale than were non-users.
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They concluded: “This overall increase is not surprising given that several studies have shown cannabis to be effective in mitigating inflammation and demonstrated benefit to chronic pain symptoms with the use of cannabis, including improved pain, functional outcomes, and quality of life in patients with chronic pain syndromes. With chronic pain projected to increase over the next two decades to a rate of one in three people from the current rate of one in five people, our findings foretell that cannabis use can be projected to increase even more rapidly.”
Chronic pain is the most commonly reported qualifying condition among medical cannabis patients enrolled in state-specific access programs. A 2017 literature review by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults.” Numerous studies report that pain patients enrolled in medical cannabis access programs typically reduce or eliminate their use of opioids over time.
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