A considerable number of Americans are exploring using cannabis for chronic pain relief, according to a new study.
If you’ve ever experienced chronic pain, you understand how frustrating and endless it can be. Unfortunately, treatment options can be limited, especially when relying on medications such as opioids.
As a result, many people, according to a 2023 study published in JAMA Network Open, have turned to medical cannabis to treat their chronic pain symptoms.
Cannabis Use For Chronic Pain
Any pain that lasts longer than three months is considered chronic (per Cleveland Clinic). It can appear in a variety of ways, including arthritis, headaches, discomfort near a tumor, nerve or muscle pain, or aching caused by scar tissue.
It can also cause depression, fatigue, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Unfortunately, one in every four American adults suffers from chronic pain. Fortunately, medical marijuana has been beneficial in more than one way.
According to a new study, roughly one-third of chronic pain patients use cannabis to treat their pain. The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, surveyed approximately 2,000 people suffering from chronic pain in states with medical programs, including Connecticut.
While recreational cannabis was only recently legalized, with retail sales beginning on January 10, medical marijuana has been legal in Connecticut for over ten years.
According to a scientific survey, it is widely used by people suffering from chronic pain. One-fifth of chronic pain patients polled said they had used it in the previous 30 days.
While using cannabis, more than half of the patients reported reducing their use of over-the-counter and prescription pain medications. Patients who used it also reported using fewer prescription opioids.
How Does It Work?
Dr. Bicket stated that he conducted the survey in part to gain a better understanding of how people use cannabis for medical purposes. He finds it difficult to guide patients who use cannabis as a pain specialist, he says.
“For chronic pain, where we’re at with cannabis, it’s still a bit of the Wild West,” he said.
Steven Kinsey, the director of UConn’s Center for Advancement in Managing Pain, investigates how cannabis affects pain perception. While some things are becoming clearer, he believes we are still a long way from understanding how a specific cannabis bud, or strain, affects pain clinically.
Cannabis use for pain and recreation is becoming so common that anesthesiologists must consider it when dealing with surgical recovery. The American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine recently issued guidelines on how to deal with cannabis use during surgical recovery.
Cannabinoids are produced by cannabis plants as part of a suite of anti-herbivore defenses. Cannabinoids are also produced by mammals as part of cell signaling. Cannabinoid receptors are found in mammals’ nerves, spines, and brains.
The endocannabinoid system is a critical but poorly understood component of how the nervous system works. Plant cannabinoids interact with this system to produce the effects felt by users.
Cannabinoids, according to Kinsey, may work throughout the nervous system to reduce pain perception by inhibiting pain transmission in the peripheral nervous system and pain signal processing in the central nervous system.
Cannabinoids also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to alleviate pain by decreasing inflammation.