More Americans struggle with chronic pain than those with diabetes, heart disease, and all types of cancer combined, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. A quick look into the statistics for pain and pain management in the U.S. is staggering. From back pain to headaches and everything in between, pain can be a massive detriment to the quality of life for people of all ages. Pain is the leading cause of long-term disability. Addiction to prescription pain medication is on the rise. Cannabinoids can help in the form of CBD and THC.
Unfortunately, treating these various types of pain is far from a walk in the park. While many struggle to find relief from their pain despite the pursuit of medications and therapies, others find themselves at a higher risk of developing a dependence on high-strength prescription pain medication like opiates.
Luckily, other options for the management of severe chronic pain do exist, and the use of cannabis for pain management has quickly become a trending topic of research and investigation.
Cannabinoids to the Rescue
A type of chemical produced naturally within the human body and found abundantly in plants such as cannabis; cannabinoids are changing the way that we think about pain.
CBD and THC, abbreviations for cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol, respectively, are two of the primary cannabinoids found within Cannabis sativa. THC is well-known as the ingredient which makes a strain of cannabis “potent,” causing a high, but CBD works more quietly in the background to elicit the health benefits that cannabis is known for.
While legal and political battles surrounding the use of medical cannabis roar throughout North America and the rest of the world, CBD has become a popular alternative to medical cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a high. It’s possible to achieve health benefits with CBD alone.
But how do cannabinoids like THC and CBD reduce pain and inflammation?
The Science Behind Cannabinoids
Whether we know it or not, our world revolves around our endocannabinoid system. All mammals have this intricate network of receptors which spans organ systems, connecting the brain to the rest of the body. The system is named for endocannabinoids – cannabinoids produced naturally within the body. Outside help from CBD and THC can bolster the work of the endocannabinoid system to achieve new levels of effectiveness.
These cannabinoids act as microscopic messengers who carry signals from receptor to receptor. Once messenger meets receptor, further signals are sent to cells throughout the body to manage some basic functions such as mood, appetite, sleep-wake cycles, and, you guessed it, the pain response. Some of the signals perpetuated throughout the body by cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors involve the way that nerve cells are stimulated to either increase or decrease our perception of pain.
Promise for the Future of Pain Management
Of course, there’s nothing like seeing some positive results, and there are many! While the use of cannabinoids for pain management is still a burgeoning topic within medical and research circles, a wealth of evidence already exists in favor of cannabinoid use. Evidence currently supports cannabinoids’ promise as a treatment for:
- Neuropathic pain
- Acute and chronic pain
- Pain difficult to treat by other means
- Pain caused by inflammation
Notably, those using cannabinoids to treat their pain are unlikely to develop tolerance, eliminating their need to take higher and higher doses to achieve the necessary effect. Unlike opiates and other prescribed pain medication, cannabinoids are viable for long-term, low-risk pain management.
Some Practical Advice
If you think it’s time to try cannabis, you’re not alone. Before you start, ask questions first:
- Is this legal?
- Should I use CBD-only products?
- How much should I take?
- Are there side effects?
Laws surrounding the use of cannabis and CBD for medical purposes vary widely. Residents of all fifty United States can legally use cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain. While medical cannabis isn’t legal in all states, hemp-derived CBD with minuscule levels of THC is still a safe bet.
If it is legal in your area, there is some argument for using a combination of both CBD and THC. Cannabinoids work in tandem with THC to create better results, but some prefer to use CBD-only products. This helps avoid the psychological effects of THC. Whether out of personal preference or a particular sensitivity to THC’s potent psychoactive properties.
Since the FDA doesn’t regulate CBD and THC, pain relief doses aren’t available. Factors include weight, age and the type of pain present. Other considerations are all important in determining the right dosage. Most importantly, start small and increase gradually over time. Experiment before you settle on the right dose to manage your pain effectively. Your doctor can provide some professional recommendations, too.
When using cannabinoids like THC or CBD for pain management, it is possible that you’ll experience some minor side effects. Most commonly, cannabinoid users report the presence of diarrhea, appetite and weight changes, and a feeling of tiredness.
A Final Word
There is still a limited amount of research available. We encourage you to research and proceed carefully.
Cannabinoids are changing the way that much of the population thinks about pain. This option brings hope to those suffering from pain not treated by other means or for those with no access to prescription pain medication. The potential is great. Research continues, and policies are changing — all indicators of a bright future for the millions of people in need of a more effective pain management regime.