The world’s view of marijuana is ever changing. Keep reading to learn ten reasons why medical marijuana is the future when it comes to pain management. Everywhere you turn, the news is reporting on the opioid crisis in the US. The numbers of people becoming addicted to and overdosing on opiates are skyrocketing. Just as alarming as the numbers are the faces. This addiction is affecting soccer moms, grandparents, and honor students alike. In so many cases, patients are prescribed pain medication but become addicted to them.
This unfortunate trend has doctors and patients alike looking for alternatives. The good news is that there is hope in medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana offers many advantages over existing pain management methods. The ten advantages below are just a few:
This is probably the most obvious cited reason for medical marijuana legalization. The center of the opioid crisis is the problem of addiction. Patients are getting perfectly legitimate prescriptions for pain medication, but becoming addicted and, sometimes, moving on to other opioids like heroin or fentanyl. The possibility of physical addiction to marijuana is still being studied, but it’s abundantly clear that it’s nowhere near as addictive as opioids.
One of the scariest aspects of the opioid crisis is how easy it is to overdose on opiates. The medication is powerful, and if people are getting it from irreparable sources, they don’t know what they’re getting.
Marijuana, on the other hand, has essentially zero risks of overdose. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, there has never been a fatal overdose of marijuana. To put that in perspective, 1500 people in the US died from overdosing on acetaminophen between 2000 and 2010 – that’s Tylenol. Considering how often patients mix up their medications, forget they’ve taken them, and misread instructions, this low overdose risk is a huge advantage.
Opioids have a high number of side effects. They often cause nausea, constipation, extreme drowsiness, and more. This leads to a chain reaction for many patients. They don’t just need pain medication, but they also need medicine to control each side effect. You may be asking, “What about the high from marijuana? Isn’t that a side effect?”
In reality, there are countless strains of medical marijuana. Many of them contain very little THC (the chemical that produces the “high”). These strains give patients the medical benefits with little or no psychedelic effects. More on that later.
As with any medication, medical marijuana has specific uses. It’s particularly successful for patients with chronic pain. Despite the high potency, side effect, addiction risk, and overdose risk of opiates, medical marijuana is more successful for many chronic pain patients.
One chronic pain patient estimates that opiates relieved 55-70% of her pain. Marijuana, on the other hand, relieved 75-90%. For someone who’s struggling to find enough comfort to go about their day, this is a substantial difference. It’s important to note that every patient and every pain condition is unique. The key is finding the pain management choice that works for you.
Most over-the-counter pain relievers are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil), and naproxen (Aleve) are all NSAIDs. An NSAID is typically recommended for patients who don’t want or need to take prescription pain medication. But these medicines can also be health hazards. While they’re safe for most people, NSAIDs shouldn’t be taken by patients with kidney problems, ulcers, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
For these patients, marijuana can be a healthy alternative. But remember that patients with any preexisting condition should ask a doctor before trying a new medication, whether it’s over-the-counter or prescription. This includes situations when marijuana can be purchased legally for recreational use.
For prescription opiates, there’s a finite number of medications that are produced. Patients who are unhappy with one prescription can try a few others, but the list runs out quickly. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, has countless varieties. One of the most notable differences is the balance between THC and CBD. These are the two primary active chemicals in marijuana, but each has its own functions.
Today, marijuana has been grown in so many different ways to develop numerous strains. Different strains of marijuana are ideal for different conditions depending on their chemical makeup. Medical marijuana distributors are highly knowledgeable about the varying strains and their strengths and weaknesses. If you consult an experienced professional, you can find the best type for your specific needs.
Prescription pain medication involves complex chemistry, specialized equipment, and precise safety practices. Because of this, these medicines can only be produced by a small number of companies. The basics economic rule of supply and demand tells us that when there are fewer suppliers, they can charge a higher cost for their product. Several medications in the US have made headlines for their astronomical price increases. This has happened because they have little or no competition.
Marijuana, on the other hand, can be grown by nearly anyone. The production is less complex and the materials are less expensive. This isn’t to say that you won’t get a better product from more experienced professionals. But the more ways there are to access a product, the more stable its price will be.
As the movement toward medical marijuana has grown, the medication has gained support for numerous conditions. Just to name a few, medical marijuana research has shown the medication to be successful in treating:
Chronic pain patients often have other conditions as well. Prescription pain pills only have one purpose, so patients often have a long lineup of different medicines. But with so many uses, medicinal marijuana can treat several conditions at the same time. Considering how much easier it is to mix up medications when you’re taking so many of them, multitasking is a great advantage.
Some people who are opposed to medical marijuana think of marijuana use in its recreational form. They think they’ll start seeing plumes of smoke arising from the next cubicle as their coworker inhales their medicine from a bong. While you still get the medical benefits of marijuana by smoking it, there are many other ways to use it as well.
Marijuana and its components can come in the form of infused foods (“edibles”), pills, liquid, and more. It can be taken just as discreetly as pain pills can, and your office won’t look like a scene from a Cheech and Chong movie. Keep in mind that the forms you can buy marijuana in may depend on the strain you want. As with choosing the right strain, an experienced professional can help you choose the products that are best for your needs. It’s also important to remember that different forms of marijuana have varying concentrations of the medication. Make sure you know how much you should take.
Over the past several years, there has been a rise in the use of synthetic marijuana, like one product called “spice.” But these drugs can have extreme side effects and risks that natural marijuana doesn’t have. This has led some people to worry whether people know if they’re buying true marijuana or a synthetic, less predictable form. This is always a risk when you’re buying drugs on the street. So in areas where marijuana is illegal, people using it for medical purposes run this risk as well.
However, when marijuana is legal (for medical purposes only or for recreational use), it can be regulated. If you can go to a professional, clean marijuana dispensary and know what you’re getting for a reasonable price, there’s no need to risk getting a bad product from a street dealer. When medicinal marijuana is legal, it can be just as regulated and tracked as existing pain medications are.
As much as we’ve discussed the issues with opioids, they do have important uses. Opioids and marijuana treat pain in two different ways. While marijuana is powerful for reducing chronic pain, it’s not as useful for acute, sudden pain as opioids are. For situations like surgery and short-term injury, opioids are sometimes a better fit. But for many patients, the best pain treatment is actually a combination of marijuana and opioids.
Not only does this give patients better pain control than one medication alone, but the marijuana can also let patients reduce their opioid doses. One particular medical marijuana study in Arizona found that 94% of fibromyalgia patients, 81% of arthritic patients, and 61% of neuropathy patients were able to reduce their opioid dosage by adding marijuana.
Considering the high risk of opioid dependence, reducing dosage is a great step for patients.
Marijuana holds so many benefits for patients throughout the country and across the globe. But like any other medicine, it’s all a matter of what is best for your unique condition.