Medical marijuana is becoming increasingly common as a treatment for a variety of conditions. From mental health to physical pain, we see more and more patients using medical marijuana than ever before.
Medical cannabis is generally claimed to be a safer alternative to opiate-based pain medications. However, its use in patients who have chronic neuropathic pain remains controversial.
In this post, we discuss medical marijuana and its efficacy for treating chronic neuropathic pain. While you might be new to medical cannabis and pain relief, numerous studies show it can increase a patient's quality of life.
Before you continue reading, even though some studies have shown medical cannabis as effective for pain relief, more research is essential. Keep this in mind as you try medical marijuana as a treatment for neuropathy.
What is Chronic Neuropathic Pain?
Chronic pain from the peripheral nervous system, also known as peripheral neuropathy as it impacts peripheral nerves. This results from brain and spinal cord damage (to the peripheral nerves), and most of the time, this impacts other areas of the body.
Since this is damage to the spinal cord, peripheral neuropathy is one of the most debilitating neurological disorders as it affects the central nervous system. Thus, pain management for all related symptoms is challenging as the pain signals are resulting from nerve damage.
The nerve damage causes nerve pain, and while certain medications can treat it for moderately improved pain, cannabis may hold the answer.
Cannabis May Work as Evidence Suggests
Cannabis therapy still needs more testing. But the marijuana plant is incredible in how it impacts the body's cannabinoid receptors as an internal medicine.
Impacting the central nervous system means this disease can also affect other body functions like digestion, circulation, and urination.
With this type of chronic pain, the sufferer experiences nociceptive pain from an injured nerve or problems with the nervous system. The injury can be a result of numerous conditions including diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and other autoimmune diseases.
Peripheral neuropathy can result from brain and spinal cord injury trauma. But it can also occur as postsurgical neuropathic pain.
Complex regional pain syndrome, also known as CRPS , is one of the most common conditions that cause pain. CRPS often follows an injury, surgery or stroke.
This condition can affect the arms, legs and face. But peripheral neuropathy is often misdiagnosed as another medical issue.
Many peripheral neuropathy patients don't feel the relief they seek from traditional pain medications. As a result, some may turn to medical marijuana as an option for relief from peripheral neuropathy pain intensity.
Painful diabetic neuropathy is another chronic condition that can result in neuropathic pain. This form of neuropathy is caused by diabetes as it affects multiple nerves.
As you can see, the health effects of this disease are internal and quite challenging to treat. The burning sensation patients feel demand for a way to reduce pain. But is the risk benefit ratio worth the attempt at treatment of chronic neuropathic pain?
Many patients believe medical marijuana might be worth a try.
What does chronic pain of the peripheral nervous system feel like?
Some patients who suffer from neuropathy report feeling tingling, numbness, and burning sensations throughout their body. However, many patients simply experience constant pain with no clear cause.
Other symptoms can include throat irritation and muscle weakness. However, muscle weakness is more common.
What treatments are available for neuropathic pain?
Unfortunately for neuropathy sufferers, the only available treatment is opiate based medications that have a high likelihood of addiction or losing effectiveness over time.
Besides opiate medications, some patients have tried antidepressants or anticonvulsant drugs. However, these treatments do not work for everyone.
Fortunately, medical marijuana has become an increasingly popular treatment for chronic neuropathic pain.
What is Medical Cannabis?
Medical marijuana, or cannabis as it is better known, is an herbal supplement that has been used as a pain medication for centuries.
Cannabis contains over 80 chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The most commonly known cannabinoid is THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for the high a person feels after smoking cannabis. However other plant based cannabinoids like CBD (cannabidiol) are becoming increasingly popular, offering their own set of benefits through ingested and smoked cannabis.
How does medical marijuana work?
Cannabinoids interact with the body's endocannabinoid system to minimize pain intensity without the negative side effects associated with opiate based medications.
The endocannabinoid system is located in the brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis within the body.
By interacting with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, it's possible to relive the pain of neuropathy sufferers to effectively and safely improve their quality of life.
What is Medical Cannabis Used for?
Medicinal cannabis use dates back thousands of years for a variety of conditions including but not limited to:
- Mental disorders such as PTSD, depression , and anxiety
- Nausea from chemotherapy
- Pain relief from neuropathy or other chronic pain sources
As we have seen in the past decade, the list of medical uses for cannabis continues to grow. For instance, CBD oil is now being used by many multiple sclerosis patients to improve their symptoms.
But multiple sclerosis patients aren't the only ones benefits from smoked medicinal cannabis and edibles. Smoked or inhaled cannabis is becoming increasingly common for treating HIV neuropathy, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, psychiatric disorders, and various painful symptoms associated with these issues.
Additionally, more states are legalizing medical marijuana for neuropathic pain relief with the help of people like you. However, while medicinal marijuana cigarettes may be able to increase your quality of life, it's equally important to look at potential side effects first.
Potential Side Effects of Medical Cannabis
While many people have smoked cannabis at least a time or two, medical marijuana or cannabis medicine can come with a host of side effects. Here is a list of the side effects you might experience if you commit to cannabis treatment:
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Red eyes, dilated pupils, and increased sensitivity to light
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Decreased memory performance
- Loss of coordination (do not drive)
- Increased heart rate (if smoked)
Just like with prescription medications, allergic reactions to medication are possible with products made from the cannabis plant. But this is rare with cannabis treatment options.
Side effects for cannabis based medicines are more common in inexperienced medical marijuana smokers. These adverse effects are generally short lived and typically subside within a few hours after treatment.
If adverse effects after ingested or inhaled cannabis use persist, please consult your doctor or marijuana physician.
Studies Showing Medical Marijuana Efficacy for Neuropathic Pain
According to the Cleveland Clinic Journal, cannabis could be an effective alternative or adjunctive treatment for peripheral neuropathy. Since most of the standard treatments usually offer little relief, this is a massive breakthrough for some patients.
However, it's essential to know that the long-term safety is still unknown for these cannabis treatments. Doctors in states with legal cannabis therapy only recommend it to peripheral neuropathy patients after thinking it over carefully.
Anyways, some small clinical studies highlight the benefits of medical marijuana for peripheral neuropathy. But some adverse impacts like throat irritation, headaches, and dizziness are common. Also, high doses of marijuana can cause serious neuropsychiatric effects.
It's also important to note that the safety might not be adequately assessed in US trials. This is because the cannabis supplied for the studies isn't very potent in comparison to what's commercially available.
Ware et. al. 2010: Reducing Post-traumatic or Post-surgical Neuropathic Pain
During one randomized crossover clinical trial (Ware et. al, 2010), researchers examined 21 patients with post-traumatic or post-surgical neuropathic pain. The participants inhaled 4 different clinical cannabis formulations that contained 0%, 2.5%, 6.0%, and 9.4% THC over four 14-day periods.
Patients with the highest THC concentration experienced less pain and improved sleep. The average pain scores decreased from 6.1 to 5.4 on the researchers' 11-point scale. The researchers revealed that the THC potency impacts tolerability.
Wallace et. al., 2013: Resistant Neuropathic Pain
This other study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial that checked the impact of vaped cannabis on central and peripheral neuropathic pain resistant to first-line pharmacotherapies. The researchers uncovered that there was a 30% reduction in pain intensity when accounting for a visual analog scale.
The placebo group had only 26% achieve this. However, 57% of the low-dose marijuana group and 61% of the medium-dose group achieved a 30% pain reduction.
Wallace et. al., 2015: Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
This other Wallace study involved a randomized controlled trial that evaluated cannabis for peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes. The participants had each experienced a minimum of 6 months of neuropathic pain in their feet.
Participants inhaled a single dose of 1%, 4%, or 7% THC cannabis or a placebo. The researchers used a visual analog scale to determine spontaneous pain and used a foam bush and von Frey filament at intervals over the four hours following the treatment.
High-dose cannabis had the most significant impact on these patients. The pain reduction continued throughout the test.
However, the cannabis recipients' attention and working memory declined. And the high-dose group experienced these impacts for around 15 minutes following the treatment.
These clinical trials highlight the fact that just because someone has nerve damage from diabetes or a traumatic injury does not mean they cannot reduce their pain. With these studies being placebo controlled, it's easy to see the treatment of chronic pain with the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana is possible.
Medical Marijuana for Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet
How many people suffer from neuropathic pain?
It's estimated that around 20 million people are suffering from neuropathic pain in the US alone. However, there are higher concentrations of patients in certain populations.
26% of people over the age of 65 and 30% of patients with diabetes mellitus are impacted by this disease.
Is marijuana effective for neuropathy?
Several small clinical studies highlight that medical marijuana offers benefits for patients interested in treating neuropathic pain. Besides the pain, patients have found that it improves sleep and function.
Is neuropathy a qualifying condition for medical marijuana?
Yes, patients suffering with painful sensory neuropathy can get medical marijuana in many states. However, keep in mind, you might not have access to inhaled cannabis and may be limited to edibles or capsules.
Does Medical Marijuana work for neuropathic pain?
Medical marijuana can be effective at treating neuropathic pain because it reduces inflammation and nausea caused by the condition.
Additionally, medical marijuana helps combat depression and anxiety, which is common among chronic pain patients.
While studies show medical cannabis can help with neuropathic pain in select patients, more research is needed to determine its overall effectiveness.
What are the benefits of medical marijuana for neuropathy?
Medical marijuana is becoming increasingly popular as a treatment for chronic pain symptoms. Patients benefit from the ability to maintain a sense of control over their symptoms.
Alternative treatments, such as opioid painkillers and anti-seizure medications, can have negative side effects that cannabis doesn't carry, which is why it's becoming so popular among peripheral neuropathy patients.
How much CBD oil should I take for peripheral neuropathy?
If you're considering using CBD oil for treating neuropathic pain, start with one or two 25mg of hemp-derived CBD. From there, you can work your way up to a heavier dose if you need it.
How Can I Get Medical Marijuana for Neuropathy?
If you live in a state with legalized medical marijuana, congratulations! You may be able to obtain medicinal cannabis cigarettes or edibles
Concluding on Medical Marijuana for Neuropathy
Medical marijuana is becoming an increasingly popular option for patients looking to control their symptoms.
Unfortunately, there isn't enough research on its use for neuropathy. But it is effective at combating inflammation and pain caused by the disease.
Additionally, medical cannabis users find it helps with depression and anxiety which are common these patients.
While marijuana has shown promise for treating pain associated with neuropathy, it's important to note that there is still a need for more research.
If you're looking for relief from neuropathy symptoms, remember that while marijuana may help, it's not for everyone. Some patients may have different experiences than others, and ultimately, it depends on how your body reacts to this alternative treatment.
Need Help Getting Your MMJ Card?
Looking for help getting an MMJ card to treat neuropathy? Contact us now for expert assistance! Our doctors specialize in cannabis and are ready to help!