Medically reviewed by: Katherine Golden, RN, and Eloise Theisen, NP
Written by : Denise Rustning
If you’ve ever dealt with chronic pain, you know that relief can be elusive. Popping an aspirin rarely resolves the issue. Many long-term prescription medications used to manage chronic pain are problematic with concerning side effects.
Have you ever been interested in trying cannabis for chronic pain?
If so, you're not alone.
Increased knowledge about plant-based medicine, along with expanding the availability of fully-tested legal products, is making it easier than ever to find hemp CBD or higher THC products that can provide targeted relief that fits your lifestyle.
Check out our July 2021 Leaf Learning Series event, Exploring Cannabis for Chronic Pain on the Leaf411 YouTube Channel. You’ll instantly access Dr. Dustin Sulak’s discussion on how both cannabinoids and opioids work to reduce pain, along with insights on how cannabis serves as a safe alternative for chronic pain for many people.
Chronic Pain is a Major Health Issue in the United States
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that in 2019, over 20% of U.S. adults had chronic pain, and that percentage is increasing among all age groups. Chronic pain encompasses a wide range of conditions, including:
- Cancer pain
- Arthritic pain
- Neuropathic pain
- Migraine headaches
- Post-surgical pain
- Psychogenic pain (associated with psychological factors)
- Post-traumatic pain
Many people try to tough it out, but the documented long-term effects of chronic or persistent pain can be serious, including anxiety, depression, insomnia and chronic fatigue.
Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain: An Imperfect Solution
While the causes of chronic pain are far-ranging, solutions have been limited until recently, relying heavily on opioid-based pharmaceutical painkillers.
Prescription opioids have therapeutic value in the short term but may become problematic with long-term use with side effects including constipation, brain fog, and reduced functionality for daily living.
Ironically, in some people, long-term opioid therapy may even lead to increased sensitivity to pain, also called opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH), and increasing tolerance that requires higher doses of opioids for relief.
Long-term and larger doses of opioids also increase the risk of opioid-use disorder (addiction) and overdose, according to a 2015 systematic review of research).
Growing Recognition of Cannabis as a Safe Alternative for Pain
The ongoing status of cannabis as federally illegal limits research, but an increasing number of medical professionals are taking a fresh look at the plant as a safe alternative for managing chronic pain conditions.
In a recent conversation with one of our Leaf411 supporters, Takoma Wellness Center medical cannabis dispensary owner Stephanie Kahn, BSN, noted that some D.C.-area pain clinics were beginning to recommend medical marijuana to their patients as an alternative to pharmaceutical pain relief.
Within the pain specialist community, practitioners are sharing information on cannabis’s potential for treating chronic pain, but there is still an ongoing educational need for both clinicians and patients on how to use cannabis for effective pain relief.
Fortunately, organizations like Radicle Health and Leaf411 are stepping up to collect and share the latest research, with an education geared toward consumers and practitioners.
Patient Resources on Cannabis and Pain
Are you a patient or consumer who’s interested in learning more about using cannabis to manage pain? We suggest starting with our two-part series:
How Cannabis May Help with Different Types of Pain
Finding the Best CBD: THC Ratios and Products for Pain
Our Leaf Learning Series events are also a great resource for answering any questions or concerns you may have regarding cannabis use for chronic pain. Check out the recorded sessions on our Leaf411 YouTube channel.
Of course, we recognize that you will have specific questions, from asking about the cannabis products available where you live to concerns about integrating cannabis into your existing pain management regimen. That’s why our free, RN-staffed hotline exists—to help with your unique situation and questions!
Reach out to us on our free, anonymous hotline at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411), or chat us from our Leaf411.org homepage during hotline hours.
Club Nirvana Products for Chronic Pain
Club Nirvana is dedicated to cannabis education and providing quality cannabis products that not only help reduce chronic pain but improve quality of life. Check out some of our top products below that help reduce chronic pain.