Marijuana potentially useful for managing pain
States is facing an epidemic of opiate abuse, with prescription opiate medication leading to a rapid increase in lethal drug overdoses. In 2014, more than 18,000 people died from overdosing on prescription opiates, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Marijuana has been used also for more than 3,000 years. It works through the endocannabinoid system of the body, which has receptors in the brain and spinal cord as well as the immune system. The receptors in the brain and spinal cord can decrease muscle spasms and pain, while those receptors in the immune system can decrease inflammation and pain.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looked at 14 different clinical trials of marijuana use by multiple sclerosis patients and found relief from chronic pain, nerve pain, and pain and muscle spasm. Another study published in 2015 in JAMA looked at 28 different studies with 2,454 patients and found a 30 percent reduction of pain with cannabis-related products compared with placebo.
Opiates can relieve pain in the short term, such as after surgery or an acute injury. But due to their addictive potential and lack of long-term benefit, opiates are not a good choice for long-term pain relief.
Marijuana is not without its own potential risks and side effects. These include shortterm memory loss, poor motor coordination, paranoid thoughts and, for some, psychosis. Long-term use can also create the potential for addiction, but not to the degree of opiate medications. Also, overdosing on marijuana doesn’t lead to death, as it can with opiates.
My suggestion in regard to chronic back pain is to try other methods of pain control over opioids. These include physical therapy, yoga and stretching. If these don’t work, marijuana is an option, but beware of its side effects — and try to minimize its use.