Cannabis (medical marijuana) is a very effective treatment for chronic pain and inflammation. This has been validated in several studies. But, it doesn't always work. Why is that? The reason might surprise you.
Recently, researchers looked at 1,514 men and women who had chronic pain and were addicted to various narcotic medications. Some of them used cannabis in addition to the narcotics. After they completed baseline interviews, they were followed up with phone interviews or questionnaires every year for four years. They discovered that cannabis use was common, and by the four-year follow-up, 24% of the men and women had used cannabis for pain. Overall, the use of cannabis for pain almost doubled over the four years. Unfortunately, the results were not good.
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At the end of the four years, compared with people with no cannabis use, the researchers found that participants who used cannabis had greater pain severity scores. They also stated that the remedies they were taking for pain were less likely to be effective. And, in addition, they had greater generalized anxiety disorder severity scores. And the bottom line was this. The researchers found that the cannabis users were not able to decrease their use of narcotics. So, why didn't the cannabis work in these patients who also were addicted to narcotics?
It's because chronic narcotic use decreases the pain threshold. And, in some people, the threshold becomes so low that even minor pains seem intolerable. In essence, the narcotics cancel the pain relieving effects of the cannabis.
The moral is this: If you have chronic pain and you live in a state that has legalized medical marijuana, use the marijuana first before you succumb to the chronic use of narcotics.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Campbell G., et al. Effect of cannabis use in people with chronic non-cancer pain prescribed opioids: findings from a 4-year prospective cohort study. The Lancet Vol 3, No 7, p341-350, July 2018