The treatment of chronic pain has become one of the great challenges of current medicine. Due to its nature and multifactorial origin, it is a complex experience that can be induced by organic, emotional and environmental factors. Is it true that medical marijuana can help? Is its use safe?
How does medical marijuana work against chronic pain?
To begin with, it is worth remembering that marijuana is usually obtained from the plant species Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. In turn, this has three main components, which include cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids. THC is the substance that draws the most attention for its psychoactive effects. Its consumption stimulates the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which activates the reward system and leads to a state of euphoria. For its part, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound that has been investigated for its interaction with pain receptors in the brain and its anti-inflammatory action.
Although both substances have shown analgesic potential, CBD has been postulated as a promising pharmaceutical agent against chronic pain and other conditions, since it does not cause the psychoactive effects of THC. Even so, it is not exempt from causing side effects, which must be taken into account before using it as a treatment.
CBD mechanism of action
According to a very interesting hypothesis, CBD acts by modulating the endocannabinoid, inflammatory and nociceptive (pain detection) systems. The first has cannabinoid receptors that interact with the body’s natural cannabinoids. In this way, it not only intervenes in the perception of pain, but in other functions, such as mood, metabolism and appetite.
Research on medical marijuana and chronic pain
Latest research focused on the use of medical marijuana for chronic pain has yielded conflicting results. The research points out that, although there is evidence of the positive effects of cannabis-based medications in relieving neuropathic pain, it is necessary to consider their risks.
Meanwhile, research has used parts of the plant or the whole plant to evaluate its analgesic effects. Some have focused on derivatives such as CBD oil, while others have found that the use of the whole plant causes an entourage effect , in which all the components work together to enhance its action. Research data shows that use of medical marijuana against cancer pain helped reduce the indication of opioids by 64%. It was even associated with a better quality of life and a decrease in the side effects of the drugs used against this disease.
Smaller studies, such as one published in Pharmacotherapy, concluded that the frequency of migraines was reduced with the consumption of medicinal forms of the plant. Even so, adverse effects were reported and the need for further studies was reported.