It is estimated that around 20% of all people suffer to some extent from chronic pain. Common examples of this are chronic pain in the joints, the back and neuropathic pains.
There are many testimonies on the internet about the effectiveness of cannabis in chronic pain. In this article we will look more closely at the available science on this subject.
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In the event that pain lasts longer than 3 to 6 months, it is diagnosed as chronic pain. Chronic pain, partly due to the constant presence, often has a major impact on the life of the patient and her or his environment.
In addition to the pain, lack of sleep is also a common consequence of chronic pain. As a result, a large proportion of these patients suffer from a chronic sleep deficiency. In addition to a positive effect on pain, medical cannabis appears to have a positive effect on the patients’ sleep.
Regular medication that is often prescribed comes from the opiates and NSAIDs group. Unfortunately, around 64% of patients with chronic pain do not seem to benefit, or too little, from this regular medication. Yet it is still prescribed a lot in chronic pain. Increasingly, it appears that these drugs can cause serious side effects and severe addictions. Serveral newspapers recently devoted extensive attention to these drug addictions.
Cannabis with chronic pain
Because chronic pain can have many different causes, many of the studies below have been conducted into pain as a symptom of a specific disease, such as cancer or HIV.
From science, a large and growing number of clinical and anecdotal evidence seems to support the efficiency of cannabis as a painkiller. In almost every study that has been conducted to date on the effect of cannabis on pain, positive results are observed.
Different substances from the cannabis plant interact with endo-cannabinoid receptors. Through these receptors, cannabis appears to be effective in pain relief. Cannabis therefore has an effect on receptors other than those that are activated by the use of opiates.
Because cannabis interacts with a completely different body-specific receptor system, it appears that a large part of the risks associated with the use of opiates do not occur with the use of cannabis. A clear example of this is that, unlike pharmaceutical painkillers, there is no risk of a fatal overdose with cannabis.
Cannabis, unlike the commonly used regular medicines, seems to have few negative side effects. Said side effects from the above studies are for example; a positive effect on mood, dizziness, relaxation, a feeling of euphoria, a dry mouth and dry eyes. The side effects often appear to be related to (over) dosing and / or an incorrect choice of cannabis type.
Cannabis in combination with opiates
In addition to its own analgesic effect, medicinal cannabis also appears to improve the efficacy of opiates. Cannabis seems to do this without increasing the amount of opiates in the blood. As a result, cannabis appears to be safe to use in addition to opiate-based medication.
Several studies have shown a clear improvement in pain relief in patients who use morphine and oxycodone in combination with evaporated cannabis. This result is seen in both chronic pain and post-traumatic and post-surgical pain.
For chronic pain patients who experience relief when using cannabis, cannabis appears to be a safer choice than the vast majority of medication currently prescribed by doctors.
In 5000 years of historiography about cannabis, there has never been a case of a direct overdose due to cannabis use. This is in contrast to opiates which, in the United States alone, cause around 115 deaths per day.
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