Cannabis comprises compounds that may relieve nausea, pain, and other symptoms. The components of cannabis that most studies focus on for pain relief are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
Here, we discuss some cannabis benefits for pain relief.
CBD versus THC
THC resembles the naturally-occurring cannabinoid chemicals in the body. When people inhale/digest THC, it stimulates the cannabinoid receptors of the brain, thereby activating its reward system and reducing pain levels. Since THC binds to cannabinoid receptors and produces a high (an elevated state of mind), it’s a psychoactive compound.
While CBD does interact with pain receptors in the brain to exert anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, it doesn’t cause a high.
What does research say?
Recently, a lot of studies have looked at the effects of cannabis on chronic pain. However, more research is needed because some studies used the entire cannabis plant while others used parts of it. Using CBD oil or other parts of the cannabis plant helps examine specific actions of that ingredient. However, there’s an entourage effect when the entire plant is used.
Numerous trials reported positive results when cannabinoids and cannabis were used for various chronic pain conditions. According to the researchers, cannabinoids/cannabis can effectively treat certain types of chronic pain including nerve pain (neuropathy).
In 2016, a research paper found that cannabis use for cancer patients caused fewer medication side effects, improved quality of life, and a 64% reduction in opioid use. It also led to participants using lesser medications.
Smaller studies have reported benefits for other types of chronic pain. For instance:
- People diagnosed with chronic migraines felt a reduction in migraine episodes after consuming the drug.
- Of around 17,000 people with cancer, 70% reportedly experienced an improvement in general well-being and pain after cannabis use.
However, there’s still a need for further research, especially in the use of different methods of delivery, dosages, and strains.
A recent study concluded that cannabis use didn’t reduce the need to use opioid medications or the symptoms of pain. However, the findings were mainly based on reports from people who used the drug recreationally.
Using cannabis just for medicinal purposes may yield different outcomes.
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