Medical cannabis is now approved to treat a host of conditions; but, pain remains the number one reason patients explore medical cannabis as an option.
A 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) analyzes nearly all available research on cannabis to conclude that cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant can be successfully used to combat chronic pain. The NASEM report paints cannabis in a much different light than the Federal Government does and helps give validity to the scientific research that places value on cannabis as a form of medical treatment.
More and more American doctors are beginning to conduct their own research in search of answers on medical cannabis and when they should consider suggesting it to patients.
How Medical Cannabis Works
Pain is an interesting effect to treat for a number of reasons. First, pain is subjective and is felt more intensely for some; it simply cannot be measured with a test. Second, all pain stems from the brain. Your brain sends messages to parts of your body to alert you that something might be wrong. These messages are often manifested as pain.
As you can imagine, then, there exists a long list of treatment options for dealing with pain. Anti-inflammatories can be used to block chemicals that cause inflammation, opioids bond to existing receptors to block pain and cause some euphoria, and acetaminophen works to block mild pain, though it is not understood how. Non-medical practices, like meditation and virtual reality, have also been used to stop the brain from sending messages of pain to the body.
The NASEM report finds that cannabis, when vaporized or smoked, and cannabinoid compounds (including THC, CBD, and cannabidiol) work to alleviate pain by attaching to natural cannabinoid receptors that already exist inside the body. Doctors believe these cannabinoid receptors are involved in pain control, and while it is understood that cannabis and its components interact with the receptors, there is no complete explanation for how marijuana relieves pain.
The prevalence of pain is on the rise. Chronic pain is said to affect about one-third of the United States—100 million Americans. Though opioids are considered the most effective for pain management, the risk of opioid addiction leaves many searching for a viable alternative.
Why are some doctors still unsure?
Many doctors recognize a high degree of uncertainty with medical marijuana. There exists a massive variety of strains and cannabis products, produced in different conditions with varying degrees of strength, all of which makes doctors hesitant.
Ryan Vandrey, a professor and marijuana researcher at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said that people using cannabis products for medicinal purposes are “lacking information about which types of products to choose, what dose to use, and how cannabis compares to other medications.”
Doctors and patients both want answers, and there are more opportunities than ever to find them.
Though there are obstacles in place that make studying medical marijuana difficult, there are educational programs emerging that have been specially designed for trained physicians and other medical professionals to learn about the responsible medical applications of cannabis. One such program is Healthway Education Systems (HES), which offers accredited cannabis continuing medical education to their clients. For more information on HES, visit healthwayeducation.com today!