Overview of Chronic or Severe Pain
If you suffer from severe, chronic pain, you’ve no doubt tried just about every drug and therapy on the market to get some relief. Chronic pain is the name given to any pain that’s lasted for more than 12 weeks, reports the National Institutes of Health, and can persist for months or even years. Approximately 100 million Americans suffer from acute and chronic pain.
Here, we’ll take a look at medical cannabis for chronic pain. Does medical pot help treat chronic pain conditions? If so, what strains of marijuana are best to use? If you’re new to the world of medical cannabis, or even if you’re not, we’ll provide you with information to help you make an informed decision on whether or not medical cannabis for chronic pain could help treat you.
Chronic pain is a state in which pain persists beyond the usual course of an acute disease or healing of an injury, or that may or may not be associated with an acute or chronic pathologic process that causes continuous or intermittent pain over months or years. Research has shown that medical cannabis for chronic pain can be an effective method of treatment that is far safer than many other options.
Chronic pain is an often-incapacitating condition that affects every aspect of your life. It can make the simplest of activities, such as buttoning your shirt or tying your shoes, a struggle. Over time, the condition takes its toll, and you can find yourself becoming down and depressed due to your constant struggle with your pain.
If you sustain an injury, an acute and sudden pain is a normal physical sensation triggered within your nervous system to alert you that something is wrong. Contrastingly, chronic pain is persistent. Perhaps there was an initial illness or injury that brought on your chronic pain. You may have suffered from a severe infection or injury, or there could be an ongoing cause of this pain, such as cancer, fibromyalgia or arthritis. Alternatively, there may be no definitive cause.
Pain signals may be firing within your nervous system for weeks, months and even years, and older people are often afflicted. Because the ability to withstand chronic pain is typically subjective and personal, it can be impossible to measure. Your doctor must rely on your words and a description of the pain, often using a pain scale, to evaluate you.
When you’re in constant pain for a length of time, it can have a significantly detrimental effect on your emotional and psychological health, too. You may feel cut off from your friends and family as you’re no longer able to take part in activities you once enjoyed. You may always be exhausted as sleep is difficult due to physical discomfort. You may also be unable to hold down a job and consequently find you can no longer afford your usual standard of living.
If you suffer from chronic pain, medical marijuana could significantly alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Research has shown that medical cannabis for chronic pain can be an effective method of treatment that is far safer than many other options.
Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Chronic or Severe Pain
Millions of people around the world suffer every day from chronic pain. The World Health Organization estimates that 20% of people worldwide have some form of chronic pain. This includes fibromyalgia, back pain, neck pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, TMJ disorder, sciatica and more.
According to pharmaceutical industry data, pain is a $13.2 billion market. Not only is pain medicine costly, but chronic pain is also often the cause of lost wages. In the U.S., it’s estimated that over 140 million days are lost to work because of back pain. The annual totals of both direct and indirect costs for chronic pain in the U.S. are estimated to be as high as $294.5 billion per year.
This means the costs of health care for patients with chronic pain might exceed the combined costs of treating patients with coronary artery disease, cancer and AIDS.
Severe chronic pain is often treated with opioid narcotics, such as Vicodin and Percocet, and analgesics, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Opiates and narcotics are effective in relieving severe pain, but they are highly addictive and have significant harmful side effects. Analgesics are not addictive but are usually inadequate for reducing or eliminating pain.
Additionally, long-term use of analgesics can develop serious side effects including stomach bleeding, liver damage and kidney damage.
Years worth of anecdotal evidence points to the efficacy of marijuana to treat chronic pain conditions. Nowadays, medical and scientific communities are catching up with what many marijuana advocates have known for years.
So, what do the studies say? According to a Harvard-led review of 28 studies of cannabinoids to treat medical and pain issues published in the Journal of the
American Medical Association, the use of marijuana for chronic pain is supported by quality evidence.
Of the studies reviewed, all six generalized chronic pain studies found a substantial improvement through using cannabis.
Furthermore, a study from the University of Michigan from March 2016 and published in the Journal of Pain showed that marijuana:
Improved quality of life.
Reduced opioid usage by an average of 64 percent.
Decreased side effects of other medications.
Your body creates its own cannabis-like chemicals that affect various processes like inflammation and pain. It’s thought that cannabis works well to treat chronic discomfort due to these natural cannabinoid receptors we all have within our bodies, although more research needs to be done to ascertain exactly how marijuana works to relieve pain.