Medical marijuana has been found to be effective in treating a whole host of conditions and disorders. In fact, as scientists continue to investigate the plant, more medicinal uses are being found. One of the conditions medical marijuana is found to be useful for is neuropathy. Neuropathy is a disorder of the nervous system that most often affects patients with diabetes. It might be caused by a number of factors though including injury, infections, alcoholism, traumatic injuries, autoimmune diseases, medications, infections, tumors, and inherited disorders. In any case, the nerves are damaged and pain is the result. According to several studies, medical marijuana is very effective for treating the condition, regardless of its cause, and many are now using marijuana for nerve pain.
An Overview of Neuropathy
Neuropathy, also known as peripheral neuropathy, affects almost 20 million people in the U.S. today. It occurs when the sensory, motor or autonomic nerves become damaged in some way resulting in extreme pain. Each kind of nerve affects the body in a different way. The specific damage and resulting pain, depends on the specific injury. Neuropathy affects everyone differently. If the sensory nerves are damaged, physical sensation, temperature and touch will be affected. If the motor nerves are damaged it will affect muscle movement. The autonomic nerves control automatic functions in the body like blood pressure, digestion, bladder and heart rate. If these become impacted, problems in these areas will occur such as digestive disorders. Wherever there is nerve damage, problems like these will arise.
How Neuropathy Impacts the Body’s Nerves
The affected nerves will send erroneous signals to other pain centers causing pain and havoc for the body. There may be just 1, 2 or multiple nerves affected at a time. Most commonly, multiple nerves are affected. The pain experienced from neuropathy is complicated and unique to every individual. Sometimes peripheral neuropathy affects the extremities, such as hands and feet. It is usually felt as numbness, stinging, tingling or excruciating pain; it depends on how the specific nerves are damaged and how they are affecting the rest of the body. Every case is unique and treating it depends on what is causing the problem to begin with but many sufferers are using marijuana for nerve pain treatment.
Finding the Root Cause of the Neuropathy
The particular cause of the neuropathy must be investigated and understood first of all. Treatment will rely on properly understanding and dealing with the cause of the neuropathy first. In the meantime, the pain must be managed as it can be difficult to function without treating the pain. Usually, anti-inflammatories are used for this purpose, along with pain killers and even morphine if the pain is strong and relentless. Physical therapy, and other forms of treating the potential cause of the neuropathy will need to be engaged. In this way, treatment for neuropathy is very individualistic, depending on the patient’s specific condition.
The Benefits of Using Marijuana for Nerve Pain
Managing pain, however, is essential. A lot of the time, highly addictive and dangerous opioids are used in this aim which is why marijuana for nerve pain is so popular. For many who suffer from neuropathy, the prospect of addiction or even just the side effects of opioids alone make it an undesirable form of treatment. Marijuana, which has begun to be used in the treatment of neuropathy, however, has minimal side effects. It has been found to be as (or even more) effective in dealing with the pain of neuropathy and there is minimal risk for addiction as marijuana has no physically addictive side effects. No one has ever died from marijuana consumption while over 20,000 a year die from opioid use. This makes it a desirable option. For this reason, various organizations, including the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) as well as other scientists and researchers, have been conducting studies in order to evaluate the specific effects of using medical marijuana for neuropathy.
How Cannabis Works to Treat Nerve Pain
Studies indicate that cannabis has been found to be effective in treating neuropathy due to its ability to affect the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors that are found in the brain and all through the central and peripheral nervous system. The ECS regulates many aspects of the body including mood, appetite, immunity, sleep, memory and (most importantly when talking about neuropathy) it regulates pain-sensation. The 2 main receptors in the ECS are known as CB1 and CB2 which are found in the brain, nervous system, peripheral organs and tissues. THC and CBD are compounds in cannabis that are known to activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors, helping the body to manage pain and making marijuana for nerve pain an effective method of treatment.
Studies Into Using Cannabis for Pain Treatment
One study conducted in 2010 found that an inhalation of cannabis that contained 25mg of 9.4% THC, 3 times a day for 5 days, was able to reduce pain and improve the quality of sleep for those suffering from neuropathy. Another study, published in The Journal of Pain in 2013, found that, when compared to regular pain relievers in the treatment of neuropathy, a very small dose of 1.29 percent worked well with a medium dosage at 3.53 percent. The effectiveness of this low dose showed that the dosage of marijuana for nerve pain did not need to interfere with the person’s quality of life. Another small study conducted in 2015, found cannabis effective in treating pain associated with “cancer, neuropathic, spasticity, acute pain, and chronic pain conditions.”
Much more study is needed in this field but it seems clear that that many are successfully using marijuana for nerve pain. The VA recently conducted a small study which, according to Dr. Sachin Patel of the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital in Nashville, turned up findings on cannabis and its effect on neuropathy that “fit generally well with what we know.” Researchers for the VA claim that much higher quality official studies are needed to truly understand the effects of cannabis on neuropathy. In the meantime, for the many receiving the medicinal benefits of medical marijuana on their specific neuropathic condition, the proof is in the pudding.