Cannabis for Chronic Pain?

What we know about CBD is still limited.

Cannabis Americana advertisement.

Many states in this country have legalized medical marijuana. A number have recently legalized recreational marijuana. Maine is one of those. As I pointed out in a previous blog, the medicinal use of marijuana has been around for some time. Cannabis Americano was sold in most pharmacies in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cannabis was listed as one of the 50 fundamental herbs of traditional Chinese medicine. Cannabis Indica was part of many cold and cough treatments sold over the counter in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century. It, and more recently CBD which does not contain THC, are marketed to treat pain, nausea in pregnancy, feelings of anxietydepression, and Parkinson’s disease, to name a few.

There are, however, a number of issues that the users of these preparations should be aware of. Unlike many medications, these drugs have not been studied extensively. And they apparently are not risk-free. One issue being drug interactions. This may be especially true in the elderly who may be taking a number of other medications. Very little research has been done on this and there is considerable controversy even as to the effectiveness of these medications in treating chronic pain.

So what is the consumer to do? Educate yourself about the medication that you are taking, whatever it is. And be aware that some CBD products may be tainted. A California company tested 20 different popular CBD products and found “insanely high levels of dangerous chemicals and misleading labels.” If you are an elderly person making use of a product containing THC be aware that THC may impair your gait and stability increasing the risk of falling and injuring yourself. And there may be some impairment in short-term memory and emotional processing. This is especially a problem for patients with pre-existing cognitive impairment. There is also, apparently, an increased risk for cardiovascular events and an increased risk of psychotic episodes and suicidality.

Again buyer beware. These drugs may have a role in the treatment of pain, nausea and other symptoms, but we need to be aware of the current state of the marketplace, drug interactions and adverse side effects that have occurred. Be aware, too, as to guarantees, or lack of them, regarding the purity of the product that we are consuming. We also need to be aware that there may be other ways of treating these problems, especially pain, without consuming a pharmaceutical.

This article was originally posted to Psychology Today, “In the Face of Adversity“, by Dr. Ron Breazeale, Ph.D. With his permission, we will share a series of posts on Chronic Pain and related issues as a prologue to introducing what Maine has to offer for treatment options.

Photo pf Ron Breazeale, Ph,D.
Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.