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The Use of Cannabis for Pain Relief

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The pain does not discriminate on the basis of sex, age, and socio-economic status. Pain causes fear and distress often accompanied by feelings of loneliness and despair, as it hinders our autonomy and reduces our self-esteem. The human body, despite its high tolerance for pain, sometimes reaches its limits. Pain is not a pleasant emotion for anyone and we are constantly trying to avoid it as much as we can.

Cannabis has been used for pain relief for thousands of years. In fact, it has been a widespread painkiller since 3000 BC. Some of its analgesic properties are reported in 4000-years-old findings in China. Among others, the plant was used by the emperor Shen Neg as a painkiller for rheumatism, and it is known to have been frequently used to relieve pain during childbirth.

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What makes cannabidiol so special in the treatment of both chronic and acute pain? The answer comes from our own body. The endocannabinoid system exists naturally within us and regulates the proper functioning of our organs. Our body has special receptors, for example, CB1 and CB2, and produces its own cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain, while CB2 receptors are mostly located in the periphery, the immune system and the brain. In particular, the CB1 receptor is responsible for the release of the “happy hormones”: dopamine and serotonin, which are proved to be helpful in the management of pain. The CB2 receptor, on the other hand, has an anti-inflammatory and analgesic role, providing, through different pathways, pain relief. CBD, for its part, enhances the function of endocannabinoids, which aim at reducing pain and enhancing proper body function. This simply means that the CBD acts as an aid to our own body and strengthens its defence against threats.

Nowadays, some doctors consider cannabidiol (CBD) a potent effective painkiller with mild to moderately strong analgesic features, as it offers a reduction in pain both in the short and the long term without significant side effects. That is why CBD is prescribed to patients with cancer as well as people with other chronic pain such as central neuropathic pain. While the mechanisms which CBD acts against pain are not yet fully understood, cannabidiol is now thought to be one of the safest cannabinoids and has been shown to be effective against a number of cancer-related types of pain in numerous clinical trials. It also reported that CBD and other cannabinoids could be of great benefit to patients with end-stage cancer who have developed tolerance to potent opioids. This means that cannabidiol could be an efficient option for pain relief, even for those patients whose bodies do not respond to high dosages of strong analgesics. In some cases, CBD is now openly regarded as a feasible alternative to powerful painkillers when it comes to chronic pain. Cannabidiol is actually a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug (a common analgesic). Therefore, CBD solutions and oils are milder than opioid formulas, and they are generally considered to have far fewer side adverse reactions than traditional medications. In addition, cannabidiol is also considered a means of relieving acute pain, as well.

While its direct analgesic properties appear to be less potent than most opioid painkillers, the synergistic effects of CBD on inflammation may mean that it will actually be more effective against inflammatory pain than conventional analgesics. Furthermore, CBD seems to reduce the pain caused by certain chemotherapy regimens (especially in patients with breast cancer). By that means, it helps patients to tolerate chemotherapy more easily and with less pain, which is associated with the side effects of the treatment. Recently, for the first time, a study showed that the topical application of CBD can inhibit pain in established osteoarthritis. The anti-inflammatory effect of CBD can limit notably the pain and slow down the progress of end-stage osteoarthritis and peripheral neuropathy. Thus, CBD could be really helpful not only for soothing pain but also for further disease progression and nerve damage.

Unfortunately, opioid abuse is a growing concern for public health. Every day in 2015, more than 90 Americans received an overdose of opioids, which is still considered a significant cause of injury and death. Recent research shows that cannabinoids such as CBD can be a good alternative and offer pain relief in a non-addictive fashion, establishing the well-described ‘’opioid-sparing effect” they have. The use of CBD oil for pain management is safe in long-term high doses and currently there are no side effects reported by its use. It is true that more and more patients prefer cannabis as a painkiller. According to a survey carried out by the Canadian health services, 63% of the participants admitted that they would rather use cannabis for pain relief than the traditional analgesics. In a similar study conducted by scientists from the Universities of Berkeley, California and Kent of Ohio, raised this figure to close to 100%. Although there are many forms of CBD products like pills, ointments, lotions and supplements, CBD oil seems to be the top choice among cannabidiol users. CBD oil allows quick relief if applied sublingually. This is considered one of the fastest ways for CBD to have an effect (about 5-20 minutes) as it is absorbed by receptors under our tongue.

Another reason why oils are so popular is that they are accurately measurable, which leads to dose consistency. The usual dosage for chronic pain ranges between 2.5-20 mg per day for about 25 days, depending on the extent of our problem and our body response. However, since CBD is not currently FDA-approved, with the exception of Epidiolex for epilepsy, the dose is open to interpretation, and it should be treated with caution. If you wish to use CBD, it would be a good idea first to consult your doctor about whether it is appropriate for you, and how much to take. It is clear that the potentials of cannabidiol to treat pain are remarkable. If pain has become a burden in your life and you are looking for an alternative form of treatment, that actually works, CBD is worth trying.


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