Using medical marijuana for the treatment of pain is not a new concept, but there’s still a great deal of research that’s being conducted on the topic every single day. This is mainly because new innovations are constantly being made within the cannabis industry, which means medical patients must make an effort to stay up to date on the latest info.
One thing that many pain sufferers don’t realize is that there are over a hundred different cannabinoids within a cannabis plant that can affect the inflammation that ultimately leads to pain – it’s not just the infamous THC and CBD. This guide to cannabis for pain treatment will tell you exactly how these cannabinoids interact with pain, plus much more.
About THC, CBD, and Other Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds contained within the cannabis plant that react with receptors in the human body and brain. THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, was the first major cannabinoid identified, followed by CBD, but these are certainly not the only two.
Similar to opioids, each cannabinoid reacts with a specific receptor throughout the central nervous system. They regulate how cells communicate with one another – in other words, they affect how these cells send, receive, and process messages.
In addition to THC and CBD, which both offer therapeutic qualities for pain treatment, here are a few of the more prevalent cannabinoids:
- Cannabinol (CBN) is mildly psychoactive, decreases intraocular pressure, and seizure occurrence
- Cannabichromene (CBC) promotes the analgesic effects (pain relief) of THC and has sedative (calming) effects
- Cannabigerol (CBG) has sedative effects and antimicrobial properties, as well as lowers intraocular pressure
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is showing promise for type 2 diabetes and related metabolic disorders
How Cannabinoids Work to Alleviate Pain
Although everyone reacts to cannabis and cannabinoids differently, the research supporting cannabis for pain is promising. This is mainly because many cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory properties, and many sources of pain are directly correlated to inflammation.
For explaining how cannabis treats pain, there’s no one answer since it depends on the chemical makeup of each individual as well as things like consumption method and strain type. It also depends on the type of pain experienced. To understand how cannabis treats pain, we first have to explore the 3 different types of pain:
- Nociceptive: Inflammatory pain that typically results from tissue damage and presents itself as sharp throbs or aches
- Neuropathic: Pain that is caused by damage to the nervous system and presents itself as feelings of nerve pinching or stabbing
- Central: The hardest type of pain to treat, caused by dysfunctions of the nervous system (e.g. Fibromyalgia)
Once the type of pain is identified, it’s easier to understand how cannabinoids interact with the body to alleviate those symptoms. No matter what, pain is a result of the coordinated activation of brain cells – sometimes it’s a result of physical injury, and sometimes it’s not.
THC for Pain
Because THC is the main cannabinoid in cannabis, we have a lot of insight into how THC can help those suffering from chronic pain. THC works by activating certain cannabinoid receptors, one of which is in the nerve cells and the other is in the immune cells. When it activates nerve cell receptors, consuming THC is able to reduce the sensation of pain.
The important thing to know about THC is that it produces psychoactive effects, AKA a high. This isn’t something that all medical patients are seeking out, especially those who are looking for a daily solution to pain treatment – and this is where CBD comes into play.
CBD for Pain
CBD has a lot of the same therapeutic characteristics of THC, but the benefit of using CBD is that it doesn’t produce a high. This cannabinoid does not affect the brain psychoactively, so you can experience the benefits without getting high.
Even though there are plenty of studies available on CBD for pain, this cannabinoid is more misunderstood than THC. Some research is suggesting that CBD can offer mental relief from pain – not just physical – which is why a lot of people are turning to CBD for anxiety treatment.
How to Access Cannabis for Pain
First, you need to make sure that medical cannabis is legal in your area. Then, the next step will be to receive a medical marijuana prescription from a healthcare professional. How you go about doing this will depend on the state you live in. For example, if you are looking into how to get a medical marijuana card in Louisiana, you can schedule a doctor’s appointment via a telehealth appointment. Depending on government rules and regulations, you may be able to grow your own medical plants from home. But if not, you’ll be able to access medical marijuana from licensed producers.
One program that allows patients to grow their own plants from home is Canada’s ACMPR. ACMPR growers have easy access to growing equipment, high-quality marijuana nutrients in Canada, and most importantly, cannabis for treating their pain.
The main thing to take away from this guide is that although cannabis has the potential to treat pain for some people, it’s not for everyone. Always consult with a medical professional before taking this route.