Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain background

One of the most common reasons that people use medical marijuana is to alleviate chronic pain. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) published a report in January that gave a great deal of weight to this perception.

The report is an extremely comprehensive one and takes into consideration all the available and up-to-date research that has been done on cannabis. One of the most definite conclusions that the report makes is that there is a great deal of evidence that favors the perception that cannabis or cannabinoids in the marijuana are extremely effective for treating instances of chronic pain.

This is of great significance as there are clear implications for how pain is conventionally treated and how the value of medical marijuana is currently assessed. Medical marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I substance by the DEA, which goes on to declare that there is no medical use of the substance that is currently accepted. However, the report indicates that most research conducted on medical marijuana indicates that cannabis can have important medical uses.

Currently however, most doctors want more research to be conducted that can help in deciding when marijuana can actually benefit a patient and when it would be a better idea to opt for another course of action.

Medical Marijuana Pills

How Medical Marijuana Helps

Pain in itself is something which is highly unusual and complex. What makes it so is the fact that it is personalized and hence highly subjective, which is the reason that it cannot be objectively measured using any kind of tests. This is because even if pain is experienced in a specific body part, its experience is a result of the brain communicating that. So for example, if a person is experiencing back spasms due to a pinched nerve, the brain will communicate the problem by causing the person to experience a constantly throbbing ache or bursts of pain if the pinched nerve is stressed by certain movements. However the sensation is a direct result of the person’s brain, in order that the person may take some corrective action. Every person has a different reaction to pain stimuli.

This is the reason why there are numerous ways for treating pain. For example inflammation is reduced by the consumption of anti-inflammatory drugs which block the chemicals that the body creates as a response to injuries that result in inflammation. Opioids attach themselves to opioid receptors that the human body contains; the bonding causes a person to experience euphoria and blocks the sensation of pain. It is known that acetaminophen (Tylenol) is effective as a treatment for some forms of pain, but how the compound works or why it works is not known. Moreover there are non-pharmacological treatments that can halt the brain from communicating the pain of injury. There is research that has conclusively shown that even virtual reality simulations and meditation can be used as an effective treatment for pain.

According to the report published by NASEM, studies have revealed that marijuana consumed via inhalation (smoked or vaporized) and cannabinoid compounds that are found in the cannabis plant, work for the treatment of pain. Two of these compounds are THC, the psychoactive compound which is responsible for the “high”, and CBD which has been shown to treat a variety of medical ailments, including pain. This is most probably linked to the fact that the human body contains a number of cannabinoid receptors; doctors believe that this endocannabinoid system plays an important role in the control of pain. However the exact mechanism(s) by which marijuana is able to relieve pain is still not completely understood.

The fact that people resort to cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain comes as no surprise as chronic pain is extremely common. There are approximately 100 million Americans that experience chronic pain, which is almost 33% of the entire population. Its treatment is difficult, especially in cases where it is unclear what is causing it. Pain of this kind is one of the leading causes of long-term disability. There are a lot of cases in which opioids are the best solution, but there has been a rapid increase in the number of people who become addicted to opioids. This has made several people seek solutions which are safer and do not carry the risk of addiction.

Keeping that in mind, cannabis appears to be a good option. It is pertinent to note that opioid overdose and addiction rates have significantly dropped in states where medical marijuana can be legally purchased for pain relief.

Medical marijuana can be consumed in an edible form or smoked. There are several strains of the plant which can help with the discomfort substantially.

Different strains along with the choice of how the compound is ingested all have an effect on how the instance of pain is affected. Therefore, most people find the strain and dosage that works for them through trial and error. On an average, it is prudent to begin with consuming lower dosages. For example, some people find that indica strains which have a higher concentration of the cannabinoid THC work for them, compared to sativa or hybrid strains. Moreover, their effectiveness is highest in low to moderate doses. It is pertinent to note that higher doses have the potential to increase the amount of pain.

Medical Marijuana Flower

Strains That Are Popular For Pain Reduction Include:


Difficult to find, this strain has a high concentration of THC and CBD.

Afghan Kush

This strain is well known as a general pain killer and is almost entirely indica. Afghan Kush has painkilling and anti-inflammatory terpenes along with a high concentration of THC.

Blue Dream

This is a hybrid sativa strain that was initially grown in the state of California, and is known for its invigorating and relaxing effects.

Granddaddy Purple

This strain is also Californian in origin, and is frequently used to alleviate symptoms of insomnia, pain, stress and muscle spasms.

Jack Herer

This strain is named after the activist and author Jack Herer, and is a sativa strain. Apart from being popular for easing nerve pain, it also contains pinene, a compound which has anti-tumor properties.