Medical marijuana has become mainstream rapidly in the last decade. Currently, 38 states plus DC have legalized medical marijuana for an array of conditions.
Debates have continued over what motivates people to use it the most. According to a study in the journal Health Affairs, the number one reason for using marijuana is to treat chronic pain.
So, why is medical marijuana so effective at treating pain and discomfort?
Table of Contents
How Does Medical Marijuana Treat Chronic Pain and Discomfort?
If you search for “How to get a medical marijuana card in Georgia?” chronic pain is the most common motivation and is a qualifying condition.
While chronic pain can arise from various causes, such as excessive inflammation, medical marijuana appears to work equally well in all cases, but why?
THC vs. CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two most prominent cannabinoids within all forms of marijuana.
CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t cause you to get high. However, we know that it interacts with the pain receptors in the brain, which helps exert marijuana’s anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.
On the other hand, THC is psychoactive. When THC is ingested, it stimulates the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Crucially, this mechanism helps to activate the brain’s reward system, which causes a natural reduction in pain levels.
What the Science Says
The body of scientific research into cannabis has accelerated in recent years as prohibitions have been lifted. Some studies have focused on the entire cannabis plant, whereas others have focused on specific parts of the plant.
According to a 2015 review, the conclusion was that using cannabis or individual cannabinoids for chronic pain delivered positive results. In this review, researchers suggested that cannabis may be more effective at treating certain chronic pain types, such as neuropathy.
Another study concentrated on cannabis use for treating cancer-related pain. It was a stunning success, with improved quality of life reported across the board. Interestingly, it also resulted in. a 64% reduction in opioid use.
These are just two examples of studies that have proven the pain-relieving effects of marijuana. While research is ongoing, all the evidence points toward marijuana performing exceptionally well at relieving pain symptoms.
What’s the Best Marijuana for Chronic Pain?
Cannabis plants come in three broad categories: indica, sativa, and hybrids. Indica is sedating, sativa is energizing, whereas hybrids offer a mixture of the two, with some leaning one way or the other.
Unfortunately, limited research exists on how different strains impact marijuana’s pain-relieving effects.
One of the few studies that have focused on strain-specific recommendations found that the majority of people preferred indica strains for uses including:
- Pain management
In contrast, these participants said they preferred using sativa for other uses, including improving energy and mood.
Participants also saw a statistically significant reduction in pain caused by neuropathy, non-migraine headaches, joint pain, and spasticity.
As with most studies, the results are mainly anecdotal and don’t account for dosage. While medical marijuana is typically stronger than recreational varieties, different patients prefer different dosages and strains, which could influence the results.
Could Medical Marijuana Replace Opioids?
One of the most significant benefits of medical marijuana is its ability to act as a natural substitute for manufactured opioids. It’s no secret that opioid abuse is a severe issue sweeping the country, with 74% of all overdose deaths related to opioids.These substances make people highly susceptible to addiction, leading many people to use them to treat health conditions but then become addicted.
Since no evidence shows that medical marijuana is chemically addictive, more medical marijuana could reduce the burden of addiction and death the country suffers from.
However, more research will be required to show that medical marijuana is the far superior choice to opioids in all pain management situations.
Medical marijuana is a natural treatment with incredible power. As public perception switches in favor of marijuana, we expect research to continue into the pain-relieving effects of the various cannabinoids within.
For millions of state-legal patients nationwide, medical marijuana has provided the relief they need for conditions ranging from osteoarthritis to cancer.
Have you checked whether you’re eligible for a medical marijuana card in your state yet?