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Cannabis Use and Chronic Pain


Widespread Use of Marijuana in the American Population

As recreational marijuana use has become legalized in many parts of the country, its use as a medicinal therapy has also taken root. The greatest acceptance in the medical community for the use of Cannabis and Cannabinoids has been in the treatment of chronic pain.

There are an estimated 183 million (3.8% of the global population) users of marijuana. There has been a yearly increase in users in the US, with an annual prevalence of 13.5% of Americans over age 12 as of 2015) and a large proportion of which use it daily.

Not all Cannabinoids are created equal. The major difference is the relative amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) vs CBD (cannabidiol).  

Increasing Medical Use of Marijuana

Medical uses include the treatment of chronic pain such as migraine and cancer-related pain, medically refractory nausea and vomiting associated with cancer therapy, weight loss in persons with AIDS, and even for the treatment of seizures.  

How it helps treat medical illness

The basis for its effects is in part due to the presence of the cannabinoid system in the brain which plays a role in processing pain. Animal studies have shown the activation of a CBD receptor in reducing pain arising from nerve damage and inflammatory pain. These endocannabinoids (cannabinoids present in the brain) are released on demand in response to pain. Cannabinoids also interact with a specific receptor found primarily in the immune system.  

Central nervous system effects of Cannabinoids include short-term memory impairment, disruption of psychomotor control, increased hunger, antinausea effects, and antinociceptive (pain) effects.

It is no surprise that many MS patients turn to Cannabis to address their MS-associated pain which largely stems from central nervous system damage. At least half of patients with MS suffer from significant pain. One study found approximately 27% of MS patients reported using cannabis for pain control.

A pain questionnaire of patients who either did or did not use cannabis was conducted from 2018 to 2021. Cannabis users reported a high pain intensity at baseline than those who did not use Cannabis for MS pain control. Most striking is that this study showed that the use of cannabis may reduce the use of opioids and sedative-hypnotics. When comparing cannabis users with non-users, cannabis users more often reported the use of nonopioid analgesics and anticonvulsants while those who did not use cannabis were more likely to use anticonvulsants, opioids, and sedative-hypnotics. This is an extremely important finding to help patients and their treating physicians in creating pain management approaches. While more studies and time is needed to determine the degree of the damage of opioid use – what the use of anticonvulsants and sedative-hypnotics can do is well known.

                                   BeCare Link Can Help you Monitor your Neurologic Symptoms 

BeCare Link can help support you in driving the best approach for your pain control. In addition to following your neurologic function, we also have quality-of-life questionnaires and mood assessments that will be important tools for you and your physician.

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