As more states and countries legalize the use of cannabis, researchers and medical professionals are discovering its potential benefits as a pain reliever. Cannabis has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments, including pain, and recent studies have shown that it may be an effective alternative to traditional painkillers.
Here are some of the potential benefits of using cannabis as a pain reliever:
- Reduces inflammation: Cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a common cause of pain, and reducing it can help alleviate discomfort.
- A study published in the European Journal of Pain found that topical application of CBD (a cannabinoid found in cannabis) reduced inflammation and pain in rats with arthritis. (Philpott et al., 2017)
- A study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that cannabinoids can reduce inflammation and pain in mice with multiple sclerosis. (Mecha et al., 2013)
- Alleviates chronic pain: Chronic pain is a widespread problem, affecting millions of people worldwide. Many traditional painkillers have negative side effects or are addictive, making them a risky choice for long-term use. Cannabis has been shown to be effective in treating chronic pain without the risk of addiction or severe side effects.
- A review of clinical studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that cannabis can be effective in treating chronic pain, including neuropathic pain and spasticity. (Whiting et al., 2015)
- A study published in the Journal of Pain found that cannabis use was associated with significant reductions in pain severity and interference with daily activities in patients with chronic pain. (Boehnke et al., 2016)
- Reduces anxiety and stress: Chronic pain can often lead to anxiety and stress, which can exacerbate the discomfort. Cannabis has been shown to have a calming effect, reducing anxiety and stress levels and improving overall mood.
- A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that CBD can reduce anxiety in people with social anxiety disorder. (Bergamaschi et al., 2011)
- A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that cannabis use was associated with reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress in patients with chronic pain. (Ware et al., 2007)
- Helps with sleep: Pain can interfere with sleep, which can worsen the discomfort. Cannabis has been shown to help people fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer, improving overall sleep quality.
- A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found that cannabis use improved sleep quality in patients with chronic pain. (Belendiuk et al., 2015)
- A study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found that cannabis use was associated with longer sleep duration and better sleep quality in patients with PTSD. (Babson et al., 2017)
- Safer than opioids: Opioids are powerful painkillers, but they can be highly addictive and dangerous when misused. Cannabis has a much lower risk of addiction and overdose than opioids, making it a safer choice for pain relief.
- A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states with medical cannabis laws had lower opioid overdose death rates compared to states without such laws. (Bachhuber et al., 2014)
- A study published in the Journal of Pain found that cannabis use was associated with lower opioid use in patients with chronic pain. (Boehnke et al., 2016)
The physiology behind Cannabis as a pain reliever
The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that plays a vital role in regulating many physiological processes, including pain perception. The ECS consists of receptors called cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) that are distributed throughout the body, including in the nervous system, immune system, and other organs.
When cannabis is consumed, the cannabinoids it contains (such as tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS. This interaction can help reduce pain by affecting various processes in the body.
Firstly, cannabinoids can reduce inflammation, which is a common cause of pain. Inflammation occurs when the body’s immune system responds to injury or infection, causing redness, swelling, and pain. The cannabinoids in cannabis can interact with the CB2 receptors in the immune system, reducing the inflammation and therefore the pain.
Secondly, cannabinoids can block the transmission of pain signals from the nerves to the brain. Pain signals are sent through the nervous system to the brain, where they are processed and perceived as pain. The cannabinoids in cannabis can interact with the CB1 receptors in the nervous system, inhibiting the transmission of pain signals and reducing the perception of pain.
Finally, cannabinoids can also affect mood and emotions, which can influence the perception of pain. Chronic pain can lead to anxiety and depression, which can make the pain worse. The cannabinoids in cannabis can interact with the CB1 receptors in the brain, reducing anxiety and depression, and improving mood, which can ultimately lead to a reduction in pain perception.
While cannabis is not a cure-all for pain, it has the potential to be a valuable tool in managing discomfort. If you are considering using cannabis for pain relief, it’s essential to talk to your healthcare provider first to ensure it’s the right choice for you.
In conclusion, cannabis has many potential benefits as a pain reliever, including reducing inflammation, alleviating chronic pain, reducing anxiety and stress, improving sleep quality, and being safer than opioids. As more research is conducted, we may discover even more benefits of using cannabis for pain management.