Medical Marijuana for the Treatment of Chronic Pain

With the steady increase in the number of states where marijuana use is made legal, researchers are studying the reasons behind why people are using it medically. Doctors want to know how to safely and adequately recommend medical marijuana and are seeking evidence-based data about why their patients use it. The results of one study show 62.2% of patients who use medical marijuana are seeking relief from chronic pain [1].

If you would like to know if medical marijuana (MMJ) is right for you, schedule an exam with one of our Florida Marijuana Doctors. You may complete our eligibility survey in just 5 minutes to find out if you pre-qualify for a recommendation.

The Survey Says?

Researchers at the University of Michigan found patients with chronic pain account for the highest percentage of those who use medical marijuana. The lead investigator in the department of anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, Dr. Kevin Boehnke and his colleagues collected data from all states where medical marijuana use is legal. The study was published in February of 2019 in the journal Health Affairs in which he said, “Since the majority of states in the U.S. have legalized medical cannabis, we should consider how best to adequately regulate cannabis and safely incorporate cannabis into medical practice” [1].

Since 1996, medical marijuana has been legalized in 33 states and the District of Columbia, with nine states having legalization for recreational use. Without a national patient registry, doctors do not have access to comprehensive data to show the reasons for and effectiveness of using medical marijuana. While some patients voluntarily provide this data, not all states have a volunteer registry. The researchers collected their data from state websites and from 20 state departments plus Washington, DC. The data show changes in the number of patient-reported qualifying conditions from 1999-2017, as illustrated in the graph below. Note the prevalence of use among those who experience chronic pain [2]:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 1 taken from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6398594/

Of all qualifying conditions, chronic pain accounts for the most common condition reported by patients, accounting for an average of 62.2% of those polled over time. Following behind are muscle spasms due to multiple sclerosis, nausea caused by chemotherapy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and cancer.  

How Does MMJ Relieve Chronic Pain?

Pain, in its many forms, is the symptom alarm that alerts us to problems in the body. With so many causes for pain, it is difficult to treat, and some causes have no cure or treatments that lead to major side effects. Doctors and patients searching for alternatives for pain management have come to rely on the ancient and proven medicine that is marijuana. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, from headaches to childbirth. There are three main types of pain, each with a different pathway to the brain:

  1. Somatic pain – The most common type, it is typically thought of when someone is describing what their pain feels like. It sends signals by peripheral nerves to the brain and is characterized by dull and constant aches at the site of injury.
  2. Visceral pain – Characterized by a sense of deep pressure in the abdomen as it comes from specific receptors found in the gut. It occurs when injury or disease stretch the organs or tissues within the abdominal area.
  3. Neuropathic pain – A burning pain which happens when the nerves are injured. Pain signals are sent to the brain with perhaps even the slightest touch to the injured area. This type of pain does not respond to narcotics known to relieve other types of pain.

Pain may be short lived (acute) or last for days or even years (chronic). Acute pain is typically treated by doctors who prescribe opiates that have many side effects, including nausea, sedation, and addiction. Medical marijuana is a viable alternative because it doesn’t induce the side effects caused by opiates. Studies on animals have found that nerves contain receptors for the cannabinoids found in marijuana which block peripheral nerve pain. There are no conclusive studies on humans because, for logistical and ethical reasons, there have been too few human clinical trials. However, researchers believe cannabinoids provide mild to moderate pain relief similar to that of codeine and that the cannabinoid system naturally responds to medical marijuana in controlling pain. The effectiveness of medical marijuana to treat chronic pain is best proven by cancer patients who report a reduction in pain, nausea, and vomiting as well as an increase in appetite [3].

While not without controversy, the use of medical marijuana  to treat pain has steadily increased throughout the United States and the world over. Many patients believe it helps them with their pain. In a report by the National Academies Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana, researchers concluded there is “conclusive or substantial evidence” that marijuana is an effective treatment for adults with chronic pain [4].

Is Medical Marijuana Right for Me?

Whether medical marijuana will help your condition depends on many factors best evaluated by a medical doctor. If you feel you may benefit from medical marijuana, the first step is to take our eligibility survey. In just 5 minutes, you could pre-qualify for a recommendation. A Florida Marijuana Doctor can then determine if you qualify during an in-person exam. For more information, visit https://docmj.com

  1. https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/lab-report/what-drives-patients-to-use-medical-marijuana-mostly-chronic-pain
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6398594/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224384/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549367/