Cannabis is in widespread use as a treatment for chronic pain

The use of Cannabis (marijuana) for chronic back pain relief places healthcare providers in somewhat of a catch 22 predicament.

On one hand, Cannabis has been shown to have some beneficial effects in controlling chronic pain. On the other hand,Cannabis is still illegal in many countries.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, cited several benefits and risks associated with the use of Cannabis.

Benefits included pain-relieving qualities along with synergistic benefits when combined with other pain-relieving medications such as opioids.

Risks included dependence and addiction, exposure to chemical contaminants such as carcinogens, behavioral changes, and, in some cases, death.

Cannabis For Chronic Pain Relief

This article, published on WebMD, looks at the use of marijuana for chronic pain relief.

It’s been known anecdotally,” says researcher Mark Ware, MD, assistant professor of anesthesia and family medicine at McGill University in Montreal. “About 10% to 15% of patients attending a chronic pain clinic use cannabis as part of their pain [control] strategy,” he tells WebMD.

But Ware’s study is more scientific — a clinical trial in which his team compared placebo with three different doses of cannabis. The research is published in CMAJ, the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The new study ”adds to the trickle of evidence that cannabis may help some of the patients who are struggling [with pain] at present,” Henry McQuay, DM, an emeritus fellow at Balliol College, Oxford University, England, writes in a commentary accompanying the study.

Marijuana for Pain Relief: Study Details

Ware evaluated 21 men and women, average age 45, who had chronic nerve pain (also called neuropathic pain). A typical example, Ware tells WebMD, is a patient who had knee surgery and during the course of the operation the surgeon may have had no choice but to cut a nerve, leading to chronic pain after the surgery.

Ware’s team tried three different potencies of marijuana, with the highest a concentration at 9.4% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) herbal cannabis. He also tested 2.5% and 6% THC.

”Each person was in the study for two months, and used all four strengths [including placebo],” Ware says. He rotated them through the four strengths in different orders, and they didn’t know which they were using.

The cannabis was put into gelatin capsules, then put into the bowl of a pipe. Each person was told to inhale for five seconds while the cannabis was lit, hold the smoke in their lungs for 10 seconds, and then exhale.

They did this single puff three times a day for five days for each of the doses and the placebo. The participants were allowed to continue on their routine pain medications.

After each of the five-day trials, participants rated their pain on a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being the worst.

The highest dose, 9.4%, provided relief, Ware says. “They reduced their pain down to 5.4,” Ware says. “Those on placebo were at 6.1.”

Although that difference may seem modest, ”any reduction in pain is important,” Ware says.

The concentration of 9.4%, Ware says, is lower than that found in marijuana on the street. “On the street, it’s 10% to 15% THC, more or less,” he says.

“We’ve shown again that cannabis is analgesic,” Ware says. “Clearly, it has medical value.”
(Read full article)

Medical Marijuana Study

A recent study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs by a group of U.C. Santa Cruz sociologists found the average California medical marijuana user to be white, male, educated and fully employed.

The most common symptoms driving someone to seek out medical marijuana were pain (most frequently in the back or neck), insomnia and anxiety. About half of all respondents said they were using marijuana as a substitutive for another prescription drug. Users were slightly more likely to use tobacco than the general population but less likely to drink alcohol.
(Read full article)

What are your thoughts on the use of Cannabis for chronic back pain relief? Leave a comment below on this or any other back pain topic you have a question about.

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