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cannabis for pain

Late last year, we sat down with some truly inspiring individuals who have struggled through numerous physicians, medications and clinical recommendations for years before considering the potent effects of natural or alternative medicine such as cannabis or cannabidiol. This included artists, creators, entrepreneurs, musicians, and others you might see in the community every day. We asked each of those people to share their story on how cannabis helped them find their chalice. Today we’re sharing William’s story.

Pain Medications Nearly Killed William 

William, Founder & President of Chalice Farms is a natural athlete who turned to cannabis to thwart a near-fatal dependency on pain meds. William was happy to help us better understand what he defined as his chalice. Here’s how William defines his purpose:

 

 

William began competitive martial arts at five years old. By 21 he was prescribed multiple pain medications to continue playing football and competing in martial arts. A close friend suggested using cannabis in place of the opioid medication out of concern that William would end up dead. Within three weeks of taking edible marijuana before going to bed, he weaned himself off of all of his medications. William describes his time on medication as “living in a cloud”, but today, with the help of cannabis, his world “feels right.”

Cannabis Has a History as a Medicine

History is full of cases like William’s. Manuscripts from the Mesopotamia region dating back thousands of years advising the use of cannabis to treat pain. Doctors in ancient Greece and the Middle Ages of Europe used marijuana to alleviate headaches. During the 19th-century, extracts were sold in pharmacies and physicians’ offices throughout Europe and the United States to treat numerous ailments. Then in the 1920s, the United States federal government began outlawing marijuana. 

When Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, officially making it illegal, the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger had manipulated pre-existing national racism by citing instances of Mexicans using cannabis before committing crimes. His propaganda machine created enough hysteria to ban the herb that had brought healing for centuries. For over the next 70 years, mainstream media and academia largely remained silent about the pain-killing virtues of cannabis. Then in 1996, California legalized medical marijuana under Proposition 215. The legislation allowed citizens with medical conditions, including multiple types of pain, to use cannabis. Over half of the states in the country have implemented medical marijuana programs in the years since.

Cannabis vs. Opioids for Pain Treatment

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that in 2018 more than 50 million Americans suffered from chronic pain, contributing an “estimated $560 billion each year in direct medical costs, lost productivity, and disability programs.” One reason for the return of cannabis in an age of technologically advanced medicine is how safe it is. Other current medications for pain pose substantial risks to patient health, including addiction and death. 

Opioids are one of the most commonly prescribed treatments for pain in the US. According to the CDC, at least 17% of the US population had at least one opioid prescription filled in 2018. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports children are twice as likely to try OxyContin and Vicodin than heroin. Marijuana has been falsely labeled as “The Gateway Drug” for years, despite 80% of heroin addicts starting with opioids. Over 130 people die from opioid overdoses each day, equating to half a million deaths annually based on World Health Organization data. Almost one in every three patients prescribed opioids develop an addiction.

Despite these facts, the government classifies marijuana as a more dangerous drug than substances such as Vicodin, methadone (Dolophine), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl and Dexedrine, known addictive opioids. Per a Marist University poll, over 20% of adults are current pot smokers, with many doing so to manage medical conditions. A poll by BDS Analytics found 50% of women who use cannabis do so for health reasons with 25% of women reporting reduced use of prescription medications and 33% reporting reduced use of over-the-counter medicines. Cannabinoids can not only replace other pain drugs but also increase their effectiveness, according to a 2018 study on lower back pain published by Current Neurology and Neuroscience.

As the dose of pharmaceutical increases, so does the potential for side-effects. Any avenue for reducing the required dose can potentially prevent millions of deaths, especially in the case of chronic pain medications. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently found that states with medical marijuana as a treatment for pain reduce opioid deaths. Donald Abrams, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California, says “it makes sense that cannabis helps relieve pain because the body has cannabinoid receptors, places where the chemical attaches to cells.” 

How Marijuana Helps to Regulate Pain

The cannabinoids in marijuana interact with the human body through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a “circuit breaker” for the brain according to Igor Grant, Director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. Grant says, “If some system is overactive, the endocannabinoid system tends to quiet it down. Even in cases when the brain seems to be depressed, it’s a stabilizing system.” 

 

A 2016 study published by The American Pain Society, determined that:

 

  • Cannabis use was associated with 64% lower opioid use in patients with chronic pain.
  • Cannabis use was associated with a better quality of life in patients with chronic pain.
  • Cannabis use was associated with fewer medication side effects and medications used (https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-947/marijuana).

 

 

The endocannabinoid system plays a part in regulating chronic pain, lower back pain, headaches, migraines (link to Tanya’s article), and even premenstrual syndrome.  A 2011 study by Niklas Schueler and Jason McDougall found that cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid in marijuana, helped to reduce inflammatory pain by affecting the way that pain receptors respond to stimuli via the ECS. CBD also helped control the inflammation associated with pain from osteoarthritis in a 2017 report published in the journal Pain. Those researchers found cannabis reduced the intensity, improved sleep, and had few if any side-effects for subjects with lower back pain. 

 

Less Chronic Pain, Better Living with Cannabis

Cannabis has helped William further his passions, which opioid medication would have surely derailed. As a safer alternative to pain medication with no threat of dependency, cannabis may well become the new standard for dealing with chronic pain.

If you’re interested in hearing more stories of how inspiring individuals just like you are finding their chalice through cannabis, sign up for our newsletter. Alternatively, feel free to share your own story right through our website.

Bibliography

Benham, Barbara, and JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. “State Medical Marijuana Laws Linked to Lower Prescription Overdose Deaths.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. June 26, 2015. https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2014/state-medical-marijuana-laws-linked-to-lower-prescription-overdose-deaths.html.

Booz, George W. “Cannabidiol as an Emergent Therapeutic Strategy for Lessening the Impact of Inflammation on Oxidative Stress.” Free Radical Biology & Medicine. September 01, 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085542/.

Doheny, Kathleen. “Can Marijuana Be The Answer For Pain?” WebMD. April 20, 2018. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20180420/can-marijuana-be-the-answer-for-pain.

Eva, Toshiaki A., Taylor, Julian, Martin, Jose Luis R., and Furukawa. “Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Cannabis Treatment for Chronic Pain.” OUP Academic. November 25, 2009. https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/10/8/1353/1857926.

“Home of the Marist Poll.” Home of the Marist Poll. http://maristpoll.marist.edu/yahoo-newsmarist-poll/#sthash.XZXh7LeZ.dpbs

“How Much Ecstasy Would Result in an Overdose?” Desert Hope. https://deserthopetreatment.com/drug-overdose/ecstasy/.

Ingraham, Christopher, Christopher Ingraham The Washington Post, and Washington Post. “How Many Americans Regularly Use Pot? The Number Is, Errr, Higher than You Think.” Sacbee. April 20, 2017. https://www.sacbee.com/news/nation-world/national/article145681414.html.

“Medical Cannabis Use Is Associated With Decreased Opiate Medication Use in a Retrospective Cross-Sectional Survey of Patients With Chronic Pain.” NeuroImage. March 19, 2016. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1526590016005678.

“Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. September 13, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a2.htm.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioids.” NIDA. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids.

“Opioid Overdose.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 19, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing.html.

Schuelert, Niklas, and Jason J. McDougall. “The Abnormal Cannabidiol Analogue O-1602 Reduces Nociception in a Rat Model of Acute Arthritis via the Putative Cannabinoid Receptor GPR55.” Neuroscience Letters. August 01, 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21683763.

“Use of Prescription Pain Medications Among Medical Cannabis Patients: Comparisons of Pain Levels, Functioning, and Patterns of Alcohol and Other Drug Use.” Banner Image. https://www.jsad.com/doi/abs/10.15288/jsad.2015.76.406.

“Women Regularly Choose Cannabis to Take Control of Their Health.” BDS Analytics. https://bdsanalytics.com/press/women-regularly-choose-cannabis-to-take-control-of-their-health/.

 

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