Medical Marijuana is Becoming More Accepted

As of early 2014, 21 states (including Michigan) and the District of Columbia have some form of legalized medical marijuana, with legislation pending in another eight states.

Once stigmatized as a “gateway drug” that would lead to skyrocketing rates of drug dependence in the United States, marijuana is increasingly recognized as a beneficial medication for certain conditions. In particular, using medical marijuana for pain management has growing support in the scientific research to back those claims.

How Marijuana Reduces Pain

Doctors often hear anecdotes from patients about the benefits of Medical Marijuana for pain management, with a growing number of chronic pain patients experimenting with medical marijuana use to control their symptoms. Although the exact mechanism by which cannabis reduces pain is as yet unknown, scientists continue to study the compounds in marijuana. In a study conducted by the University of California San Francisco, researchers examined four compounds in cannabis that may have pain-killing effects.

They found that Delta-9 THC and cannabinol reduce pain symptoms while relaxing the mind and body. In particular, cannabinol may be a helpful compound to use in isolation, as it lowers inflammation, combats pain, and stimulates relaxation without having the euphoric effects of other cannabis compounds.

Medical Marijuana Effects on Pain Receptors

One of the reasons that medical marijuana is so effective for pain management is that it targets the same pain receptors as the body’s natural painkillers. In many cases of chronic pain, certain pain receptors become hypersensitive to inputs. These brain changes make it more likely that a person will continue to experience pain and be less sensitive to endorphins, naturally-occurring painkillers in the brain.

Marijuana crosses into the brain and binds to some of the same receptors as endorphins, reducing the pain. Over time, marijuana may actually rewire the brain to make it less sensitive to pain, a phenomenon that scientists continue to study.

Conditions Medical Marijuana Is Beneficial For

Nearly 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, making pain one of the most burdensome health conditions in the country. The typical medical approach to chronic pain is to prescribe opiate medications.

However, these powerful drugs have a high addictive potential and may lose their effectiveness over time. Many people also experience unpleasant side effects when taking prescription painkillers, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, and loss of appetite.

Medical marijuana is an appropriate treatment for many conditions that cause pain. Examples include:

  • Arthritis (including rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Endometriosis
  • Back pain
  • Chronic joint pain
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ)
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Interstitial cystitis

In most cases, patients taking medical marijuana experience almost no side effects, opposed to those on prescription opiates. In particular, cannabis has anti-nausea properties that make it an attractive choice over opiate based painkillers.

Accessibility of Medical Marijuana for Pain Management

Medical marijuana laws vary by state, so it’s important to get the appropriate information for your area. After researching the laws in your area, contact a doctor for more information about whether medical marijuana may be helpful for you.

At Denali Healthcare we offer fully compliant Medical Marijuana certification. Contact Dr. Robert Townsend today for more information and to start your certification process.