Cannabis vs. Opioids for Chronic Pain Treatment
Although opioid use is an effective treatment for chronic pain, it can also be very addicting. In 2014 alone, a record high of almost 30,000 people died from an opioid overdose. Because of this, many people have been turning to cannabis as a safer, less addicting method for treating their chronic pain.
According to a comprehensive Harvard study in which 10+ other research studies were reviewed, the use of marijuana for treating chronic and neuropathic pain was supported by data-driven evidence. Six out of six studies focusing on chronic pain and five out of five studies on neuropathic pain proved that using cannabis significantly alleviated chronic pain symptoms.
The Chief of Hematology and Oncology at the San Francisco General Hospital, had this to say: “Given the safety profile of cannabis compared to opioids, cannabis appears to be far safer. However, if a patient is already using opioids, I would urge them not to make any drastic changes to their treatment protocol without close supervision by their physician.”
Is Cannabis Effective For Treating Chronic Pain?
There is an increasing amount of evidence to show that cannabis can be used just as effectively as opioids to treat chronic pain patients. According to a University of Michigan study published in 2016, cannabis use reduced the use of opioids in chronic pain patients by 64 percent. The study also found that marijuana use improved the patient’s quality of life and decreased the side effects from other medications.
Although cannabis may not work for everyone, just as opioids do not work for everyone, it is worth talking to your physician about. One thing to keep in mind is that the chemical composition of the strain of cannabis may affect your outcome. If you are currently using opioids, take extreme caution when introducing marijuana as part of your treatment plan. Both medications should be used under the close care of a medical professional to avoid overdose and other side effects.
According to Dr. Michael Hart, head doctor at the Marijuana for Trauma institute in Canada, “When considering cannabis to treat chronic pain, the adage, less is more, rings true. Patients seem to find more relief in strains that are higher in THC. What we have found is that these strains can be highly effective in low to moderate doses, but could actually make pain worse in higher doses. So it’s important to start low, and titrate up as appropriate.”