Can Medical Marijuana help my chronic pain?

September is Pain Awareness Month which is a time when various organizations work to raise awareness of issues in the areas of pain and pain management. Chronic pain affects over 50 million Americans, which is nearly 20% of the population! Thankfully with the passing of Amendment 2, Missouri residents have a wider variety of options for improving their well-being.

62.2% of medical cannabis users report using it for chronic pain relief. The components of marijuana that most studies focus on for pain relief are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These two cannabinoids work in conjunction with our endocannabinoid system to bring about a large array of healing factors. THC activates the brain’s reward system which has been shown to reduce pain levels. CBD is not psychoactive; however it does interact with pain receptors in the brain and produces anti-inflammatory effects.

The use of cannabis for pain relief dates as far back as 4000 B.C. in China, and was used widely throughout the Roman Empire and the Middle East for centuries. In the early 1800’s Dr. Jon Clendinning chronicled the successful use of cannabis for treating migraines and noted its ability to lessen the intensity of morphine withdrawal symptoms.

“The bane of many opiates is that the relief of the moment is purchased at the expense of tomorrow’s misery.” -Sir John Reynolds, Physician to Queen Victoria, 1868

A research paper from 2016 found that cannabis for cancer pain led to a 64-percent reduction in opioid use, improved quality of life, and caused fewer medication side effects. A separate study of 17,000 people with cancer reported that 70 percent experienced an improvement in pain and general well-being after cannabis use.

Cannabis has even been shown to help our furry friends! A study published in the Frontiers of Veterinary Science by Dr. Joseph Wakshlag of Cornell University found that 80% of small dogs given CBD saw a significant decrease in arthritis related pain and improved mobility. However, more research is needed before it can be recommended for animals.

What are some of the best strains for chronic pain? The chemical composition of the strain you choose as well as your method of ingestion may affect your painkilling outcome. Keep in mind that it is likely you may need to take a trial and error approach before you find the right strain and dosage. Generally speaking, less is more when it comes to treating this type of pain. Many people find that sativa strains higher in THC work better for them than hybrids or indica strains. Some of the most frequently recommended strains are:

  • ACDC

  • Afghan Kush

  • Blue Dream

  • Grandaddy Purple

  • Girl Scout Cookies.

Helpful tip: Edibles have been shown to produce longer lasting effects which makes them an attractive option to chronic pain patients.

Learn more here about getting your medical marijuana card!