Medical marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of different and common ailments, including chronic pain.
INTRODUCTION TO CHRONIC PAIN
Chronic pain is a debilitating condition that effects over 100million Americans. To put that in perspective, that is more that 4x the Diabetes and 9x the incidence rate of Cancer. Although, most chronic pain sufferers can recall an initial event that triggered the condition – serious infection, sports injury, surgery – some patients will develop chronic pain without any such injury or event.
Survey’s have indicated that neuropathic pain is one of the most common conditions related to chronic pain. In a survey by the NIH, respondents with chronic pain indicated that low back pain was the most common (27%), followed by severe headache or migraine pain (15%), neck pain (15%) and facial ache or pain (4%).
Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain. This is a condition that effects people from all age groups. It is estimated that more than one-quarter of Americans (26%) age 20 years and over – or, an estimated 76.5 million Americans – report that they deal with a chronic pain lasting for more than 24hrs.
Older populations aged 45-64 years were the most likely to report pain lasting more than 24 hours (30%). Twenty-five percent (25%) of young adults age 20-44 reported pain, and adults age 65 and over were the least likely to report pain (21%).
Low control over pain with standard treatments:
Opioids are commonly used to treat patients with chronic pain (CP), though there is little evidence that they are effective for long term CP treatment. However, the negative effects of opiates are well illustrated in the literature. Medical Cannabis Use Is Associated With Decreased Opiate Medication Use in a Retrospective Cross-Sectional Survey of Patients With Chronic Pain.
Surveys of chronic pain sufferers who sought care from their physician and were currently using an opioid to treat their pain have expressed little to no control over their pain. In addition, over half have said that they experience debilitating pain more than once a day; thus severely decreasing their quality of life and well-being.
- Almost two-thirds (59%) reported an impact on their overall enjoyment of life.
- More than three quarters of patients (77%) reported feeling depressed.
- 70% said they have trouble concentrating.
- 74% said their energy level is impacted by their pain.
- 86% reported an inability to sleep well.
Prescription painkillers are considered a major contributor to the total number of drug deaths. In 2007, for example, nearly 28,000 Americans died from unintentional drug poisoning, and of these, nearly 12,000 involved prescription pain relievers.(15)
Unintentional Drug Poisoning in the United States, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 2010.
Medical Marijuana as a Treatment for Chronic Pain:
Over the past decade, researchers have begun to study whether medical marijuana is an effective treatment for chronic pain vs. standard of care with opioids.
The current published research has suggested that substituting medical marijuana for opioids and other medications for chronic pain treatments has been significantly better at controlling the patients’ symptoms while reducing the harmful side effects commonly associated with patients on opioids. In addition to alleviating their pain, patients have expressed that medical marijuana has had a positive effect on reducing their usage and dependence on highly addictive pain medicines. Lastly, due to the low side effect panel, medical marijuana has also been shown to be a efficacious alternative for older patients’ with complex comorbidities.