Chronic pain is one of the top five conditions that cannabis treats effectively. HelloMD and UC Berkeley recently released a study that found 97% of medical cannabis patients on pain medication felt cannabis provided enough relief to allow them to decrease their opioid use. Marijuana’s ability to successfully treat pain with few side effects, combined with its various methods of consumption, make it a great alternative to pharmaceutical medications.
For people interested in learning more about treating their chronic pain, we’ve highlighted some of the most popular questions about chronic pain and marijuana below. Our Answers platform is also a good resource—you can reach out and ask questions to our community of cannabis users, which includes nurses and doctors.
Q: CBD vs. THC? What's the difference and which works better for pain?
Answer: @Didi Thanks for asking this question as it does come up often. When addressing pain, the answer is that THC works far better for pain relief than just CBD alone. If fact, pain relief is the main effect that THC seems to deliver in whatever form it is taken. The raw form of THC, called THCA is also very good for inflammation which when applied results in pain relief as well. CBD on the other hand, is extremely good for seizures, muscle spasms, depression, anxiety, and also for inflammation. I have heard athletes say they tried pure CBD oil on neck pain & it didn't help but when using THC they got the pain relief they were looking for. A combination of THC & CBD is also a very good option.
Q: What is the best medication for excruciating back pain? I need help fast!
Answer: @DrFryeDr Chronic back pain, be it caused by neuropathy, inflammation, or muscle spasm, can be alleviated with medicinal cannabis. A variety with a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD maximizes the analgesic, muscle-relaxing, and anti-inflammatory activity, reduces anxiety, and elevates the mood . Patients who use this ratio remain clear minded, focused, and productive without feeling high or stoned. Topical cannabis salves and lotions are also very effective in reducing or eliminating pain. For more severe back pain, a bit more THC can be pain-distracting. Meaning, while pain may still be present, the patient isn't "bothered" by it.
Q: Can I use cannabis as a replacement for Vicodin?
I suffer from chronic back pain and have been using vicodin. However, my doctor has stated that I need to end my reliance on this drug, and I am looking for a replacement. Advill and others don't provide the relief I am looking for. What cannabis products might be a good choice for me?
Answer: @PerrySolomonMDChief Cannabis has had more and more positive feedback in people trying to cut down or eliminate their opioid use. Every day in the United States about 44 people die as result of opioid overdoses. There has never been a reported death from cannabis use. Donald Abrams, MD, a professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco, has studied the effects of medical marijuana on pain since the mid-1990s. In 2011, he published a small study of 21 patients that found that the addition of marijuana to a twice-daily opioid regimen led to a 25 percent reduction in pain. It suggests cannabis could allow pain patients to lower their opioid dosage and still get pain relief.
It seems that patients can get short term pain relief from cannabis that contains only 1.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), the ingredient that gives marijuana its psychotropic effects. Pot used for recreational purposes has 6 to 12 percent THC, but can go as high as 20 percent. A higher concentration of cannabidiol (CBD) mixed with a little THC seems to be the best bet for decreasing opioid use. There is one called “20:1,” named for its ratio of CBD to THC.
The fastest way to obtain relief is by smoking or vaping the cannabis product. Tinctures or capsules are effective as well as using an edible that can last the longest.
Photo credit: Jacob Postuma