More than 100 million Americans live with chronic pain – a hidden epidemic that disrupts lives and costs billions every year in lost productivity. Chronic pain has many causes, but conventional treatments for that pain rely heavily on highly addictive opioids and other medications for managing pain-related symptoms, such as depression or insomnia. But, a growing number of chronic pain sufferers are turning to cannabis for safe, effective relief from pain and its associated conditions.
A small group of people are lacking in pain receptors. But, most people have a vast network of neurons that fire in response to painful stimuli, sending signals to the brain that tell us to do something about it. Sudden events like injury or surgery cause an immediate, acute pain response that typically subsides as the trauma heals.
However, chronic pain is more complex, with many causes. In some cases, pain persists long after an injury is healed because the perception of pain becomes embedded in areas of the brain related to learning, memory, and emotion. Pain can also be associated with chronic health conditions, like arthritis or fibromyalgia, or with physical abnormalities that strain muscles and put pressure on nerves, including curvature of the spine. Poor posture, repetitive motions, or obesity can also lead to chronic pain. So can many forms of cancer. And sometimes, chronic pain has no obvious cause at all.
Chronic pain affects all areas of life, and it contributes to other problems, such as insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Chronic pain sufferers miss more work days than their healthy counterparts, and many are unable to work at all. Relationships can suffer as well.
Chronic pain can be treated with various combinations of physical therapies and medications. Some kinds of chronic pain can be managed with over-the-counter painkillers, like aspirin or ibuprofen. But, more severe pain is managed with opioids. These potent prescription pain medications are highly addictive, with serious side effects and an elevated risk for overdose or death, especially when combined with other sedative medications, or alcohol. Studies have also shown that for chronic, rather than acute, pain, opioids may not be very effective.
Because of the risks and side effects of opioids and other pain medications, a growing number of chronic pain sufferers are looking for safer, more effective alternatives – and a growing body of research suggests that cannabis just may fill the bill.
Compounds in cannabis, particularly cannabidiol, or CBD, bind with receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, a vast network that supports many essential processes, including pain signaling. Cannabis compounds are so similar to natural cannabinoids that they can moderate pain messaging in the brain without the side effects and risks of conventional pain medications.
Along with easing pain itself, recent research indicates that cannabis can also help with other issues, like anxiety and insomnia that often accompany chronic pain. With cannabis, some chronic pain sufferers reduce their use of pharmaceutical painkillers – or stop using them.
Chronic pain is a qualifying condition for Medical Marijuana in Utah. To get your Medical Marijuana Card, you’ll need to meet with a medical provider who can certify your qualifying condition and enter your information into the state user database. For more information or a consultation, schedule an appointment with us today.