Chronic pain is on the rise. According to recent CDC data, at least 20 percent of Americans claim they have at least one chronic pain condition. As more patients seek all-natural relief from their symptoms, medical marijuana has become an increasingly popular option.
For many MMJ cardholders, ganja is a godsend…but what does the science say about THC for pain sufferers? Could THC-loaded buds work better than placebo pills?
THC For Pain Sufferers — What We Know About THC For Pain
While most of the data on THC is preliminary, it suggests this cannabinoid could have a positive effect on multiple conditions. For instance, a 2015 investigation at McLean Hospital found THC helped patients struggling with nerve-related pain. Another Dutch-based study also suggested the THC/CBD drug Bediol reduced fibromyalgia-related pain by about 30 percent versus placebo.
There’s also significant research on THC’s impact on chronic migraine headaches. For instance, one small study from the University of Colorado found marijuana decreased monthly migraine episodes. Also, since THC appears to have anti-nausea properties, some doctors believe it may reduce migraine severity.
Some medical marijuana researchers believe THC’s sedative properties could also have a positive impact on pain. Indeed, researchers at the University of Haifa recently found cannabis use may shorten the time it takes for people to fall asleep. Since at least 20 percent of chronic pain sufferers complain of insomnia, THC might reduce the number of weekly sleepless nights.
Lastly, research from the University of Michigan claimed medical marijuana use could reduce the need for potentially addicting drugs like opioids. According to this study, people who used marijuana for chronic pain took ~ 65 percent fewer opiates than non-cannabis users. Researchers also claimed patients who took cannabis seemed to have better overall health versus opioid users.
Beyond THC Therapy — Could Other Cannabis Compounds Help Pain Patients?
While these findings suggest THC could play a role in chronic pain management, it’s not the only cannabinoid researchers are talking about. In fact, there are arguably more published studies on CBD’s effect on pain.
Admittedly, this partially has to do with CBD’s legal status. Ever since 2018, it has become easier for researchers to use hemp-extracted CBD versus federally-illegal THC. However, plenty of studies strongly suggest CBD has potent analgesic properties on its own.
Indeed, researchers at the University of Kentucky recently found CBD topicals may reduce knee arthritis in rats. Another study out of Cornell University found CBD capsules seemed to reduce arthritis symptoms in dogs versus placebos. These trials strongly suggest CBD has natural anti-inflammatory properties, which may explain its popularity amongst chronic pain sufferers.
Beyond cannabinoids, some cannabis researchers are interested in the effects of aromatic terpenes. For instance, the spicy beta-caryophyllene seems to exert anti-inflammatory effects on the brain.
While we don’t know everything about using cannabis for chronic pain, it’s clear this plant has potential. MMJ patients should always speak with a qualified doctor to pick the ideal strain for their condition.