Currently, 1 in every 10 Americans suffers from a neuropathic disorder. Doctors prescribed opioid-based painkillers (among other treatment plans). But this leads to a far devastating issue we are struggling with today—opioid addiction. As a result, many health care providers and patients seek a safer alternative such as cannabis for neuropathic disorders.
Many of us probably grew up in a community that branded any form of cannabis intake as vagabond behavior. But times are changing thanks to years of active litigation and relentless research. A growing database of science-backed evidence suggests there’s much more to this plant than we initially gave it credit.
Joy, a 54-year-old woman in Florida, no longer sees cannabis as a “party drug” after using cannabis oils along with cytotoxic chemotherapy treatment. Despite her battle with stage 4 breast cancer, she testifies that the oils help her cope with chemo-induced body aches and pains. It also reduces her insomnia and nausea. She now hopes that more people will change their mindset and that Florida legalizes recreational marijuana.
But does cannabis work for people with neuropathic pain? And if so – how well? However, before we delve into this, let us clear out the pink elephant in the room.
Cannabis is a cannabinoid drug known by many names such as weed, ganja, pot, Maryjane, dope, or marijuana. The Cannabis Sativa plant contains numerous cannabinoids, but the two primary compounds are the psychotropic THC (delta9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and the non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD).
The use of cannabis can be traced back to over 3000 years ago. However, it remains strictly illegal in many countries. Only recently, a few states in the U.S.A. and some European countries have approved the use of cannabis for medical purposes and recreation. Due to this, more anecdotal evidence is surfacing about the benefits of cannabis, especially for medical conditions such as neuropathic pain.
Cannabis for medical reasons is more popular than it was a decade ago. Although there isn’t much scientific evidence to suggest that the drug should be used entirely, there are numerous benefits of cannabis based on user reports. Several studies have shown a positive effect of regulated cannabis use on patients with several illnesses and conditions, such as:
- Pain relief
- Clinical psychiatric issues like PTSD
- Weight Loss
- Eating disorders
- To alleviate nausea from chemotherapy
- Menopause-related symptoms like hormonal imbalances
Other non-clinical advantages include increased creative flow and enhanced libido, to name a few. As research into the field is still in the infancy stages, we can anticipate the list to grow longer with time.
Neuropathic Disorders Defined
Pain is something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It is an important indicator of injury or illness. But when it seems to go on for hours or becomes chronic, that’s when it turns into an issue of concern. This kind of pain is defined as neuropathic (nerve) pain.
Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nerves themselves or the covering layers known as the myelin sheath. This causes incorrect messages to be transmitted along the nerve to other parts of the body. The result is pain, tingling, or uncomfortable sensations.
Neuropathic pain in individuals is dependent on the location of injury to the nervous system. Things that may lead to nerve damage include chemotherapy, a physically traumatic incident, and underlying medical conditions like diabetes or nutrient deficiency.
There are estimated to be over 16 million sufferers of neuropathic disorders in America, even though they are often hard to diagnose and difficult to treat. Any form of chronic pain can be extremely debilitating, greatly affecting the quality of life.
What Does Neuropathic Pain Feel Like?
Individuals with neuropathic pain often define it as shooting or burning pain. They may also have tingling and numbness. Additionally, they may feel pain from a touch such as going out in cold weather or coming in contact with an object.
The pain can be debilitating and life-altering, preventing the person from doing what they normally do.
Cannabis for Neuropathic Disorders: How it Works
Nerve pain is unrelenting. It is sometimes severe, but at other times, it may be dull yet lingering. The key aim of any treatment plan is aimed to help patients manage debilitating symptoms.
Neuropathic pain was previously believed to be untreatable, thus the term ‘chronic pain.’ This is because it is often resistant to conventional treatments. However, the results of recent studies indicate that medical cannabis can help treat neuropathic pain.
One recent study, in particular, showed that marijuana helps relieve this type of pain with no side effects. It included 36 trials and the patients with chronic, non-cancer pain were given cannabis in various forms. After two weeks, the team determined that medical cannabinoids have pain-relieving qualities.
A 65-year-old patient in Tallahassee developed neurological atypical facial pain sometime in 2016. After consulting three neurologists and a trial-and-error period with numerous medications, there was a very minimal change (if any at all). This drove them to seek the opinion of a Tallahassee medical marijuana doctor who prescribed cannabis. It has now been over 12 months, and they’re still astonished by the effectiveness of small doses that provide pain relief for up to 8 hours.
However, there has been concern that long-term use of medical marijuana may lead to tolerance, which means the efficacy of pain reduction diminishes. In addition, there are notable differences in the ability of cannabinoids to treat various types of neuropathic pain. A proposed solution for this is using a cannabis extract with controlled amounts of THC and CBD.
The endocannabinoid system plays a significant role in pain relief. The endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of neuromodulatory lipids and associated receptors involved in various physiological processes, including appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.
Two types of ECS receptors have been identified: CB1 and CB2. When cannabinoids attach themselves to these receptors, they can influence the release of neurotransmitters that transfer messages between nerve cells. CBD is interesting because there appears to be an indirect effect on the CB1 receptor, which leads to an overall reduction in pain sensation.
Which raises the question: which is more effective in neuropathic pain management – CBD or THC? Read on to find out.
CBD VS. THC: Which is More Effective for Neuropathic Pain?
Although cannabis has 100+ cannabinoids in its genetic makeup, CBD and THC are the most studied. Both are chemical compounds found naturally in cannabis plants. They each behave differently in the human body.
Many studies seem to point to CBD as the dominant compound when it comes to medical conditions. But, there are some conflicting results. The fact is: there is still a lot of research to be done before we can truly say which cannabinoid works best for different conditions or types of neuropathic disorders.
THC occurs naturally in marijuana and is artificially manufactured and used in prescription medicines (such as dronabinol employed to treat appetite loss that causes weight loss in people with AIDS). THC acts on the cannabinoid receptor cells – the same cells that CBD interacts with – and activates them, giving you a sense of relaxation and an altered state of mind. It’s widely known as the compound in cannabis that gives users sensations of euphoria – what we know as getting high.
On the other hand, CBD does not bind directly with either cannabinoid receptor. Instead, it influences the ECS indirectly, resulting in your body’s natural protection against pain and inflammation. CBD is also believed to enhance THC’s ability to activate CB1 receptors, stimulating the nerve endings to block pain signals.
All in all, we can deduce that both CBD and THC play vital roles in pain management. CBD can be particularly helpful because it achieves pain relief as it reduces inflammation minus the psychoactive effect. At the same time, thanks to the psychoactive properties of THC, which can help alleviate anxiety and insomnia associated with chronic pain.
The recent influx of user reviews and patient testimonials from people with conditions like fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, sciatica, severe trauma to the spine, or post-surgical pain is adequate to confirm the efficacy of cannabis.
Conduct a bit of research on your own or visit a medical marijuana physician, and you’ll be amazed at the rising number of alternative therapies with cannabis.
Tip For Thought
It might be challenging to choose the best cannabis strains for pain management. Several variables to consider may appear overwhelming, especially if you don’t have adequate knowledge of the matter. Therefore, consult a medical professional for recommendations and advice on using and where to obtain CBD oil or THC extracts.
For instance, residents of Florida can use cannabis for medical conditions, given they can get a license from a doctor. Credible online resources, such as the MMTC (Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics) website, are excellent sources of information. They’ll advise you where to find certified doctors, how to schedule in-person assessment appointments, obtain a card, and even find a dosage support center near you.
A doctor or clinical therapist carries out assessment tests to establish your candidacy for cannabis-inspired regimens. After all, pain management is an individualistic process, meaning what helps someone manage their neuropathic pain might not necessarily work well for the next person.
Constant supervision is necessary during the first few weeks. As long as cannabis ingestion doesn’t interfere with normal body functions, the aim is to define the appropriate dosage and interactions with other drugs.
Perhaps most importantly, what is the legality status of cannabis in your state, country, or territory? You have a much greater arsenal of cannabis-inspired recipes to explore if it is permitted for medical or recreational use. You can buy from a local marijuana dispensary or an online wellness store.
Many dispensaries offer full-spectrum alongside pure CBD or THC. They are available in numerous forms to suit all kinds of users. You can find pre-rolled joints, sprays, oils, topical creams, lotions, and even edibles like gummy bears, cakes, and chocolates. Each has its own discrete benefits, which are worth exploring to find what suits your lifestyle.
To avoid falling victim to some unscrupulous people, research the source you want to use. Look for their customer service number and call them up to ask about their products, strains, and policies. If they don’t offer blunt answers to your inquiries, then this might be a warning sign. Reviews, testimonials, and referrals are excellent sources of information.
The Bottom Line
If you or someone close suffers from neuropathic pain, talk to your health care provider to explore cannabis as treatment (but only if you live in a legal state). It is advisable to experiment with different strains to discover which works best for your particular type of pain.
Neuropathic pain is a tough condition to deal with, but cannabis extracts can help immensely. Cannabis ingestion doesn’t only help the patient manage their pain; it leads to feelings of well-being and can improve one’s state of mind and quality of life.
Have you used cannabis for neuropathic disorders? We would love to hear about your experience.