In the United States, a recent study has revealed that taking cannabis could stop some people who suffer from chronic pain and insomnia from needing to taking opioid medication. Although the therapeutic benefits of marijuana have not officially been confirmed yet, the study has suggested that this plant could pose an interesting alternative for current treatments.
American researchers have carried out a study with around 1,000 individuals taking legalized marijuana. Of this group, a large proportion claimed they consume cannabis to reduce chronic pain (65%), and of this group, 80% (520 people) state that they find it very effective.
The study fits into a rather specific context given the large quantity of people involved, as p: ‘Approximately 20% of American adults suffer from chronic pain, and one in three adults do not get enough sleep.’
An alternative to currently controversial solutions
To reduce sleep problems or pain, traditional solutions include prescribing medicines such as sleeping pills or opioids. Those who are in favor of taking marijuana have highlighted the secondary effects of these current treatments, including developing a dependency on the medication or an addiction to them, as was explained by Doctor Julia Ansten, Professor of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
‘People develop tolerance to opioids, which means that they require higher doses to achieve the same effect. This means that chronic pain patients often increase their dose of opioid medications over time, which in turn increases their risk of overdose.’
Other pain medications are also thought to be potentially dangerous by Doctor Wurm.
‘Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen cause GI bleeding or kidney damage with chronic use. Paracetamol toxicity is the second most common cause of liver transplantation worldwide, and is responsible for 56,000 ER visits, 2600 hospitalizations and 500 deaths per year in the US.’
As well as dependency and the patient’s getting feelings of numbness during the day, sleeping pills are no longer perfect. One study ties in with others carried out earlier that looked into this plant’s uses in the field of medicine. A link between the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and reduction in the number of deaths from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2010 has already been noted.
Nothing is for sure as of yet
As a conclusion to this study, researchers do however claim that they have a long way to go before they can biologically and officially prove the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. They have stated that cannabis isn’t perfect and does also have its secondary effects, such as problems with addiction.
While waiting for more concrete discoveries, Doctor Wurm has said that cannabis is still quite a hazardous solution.
‘The challenge is that health providers are far behind in knowing which cannabis products work and which do not. Until there is more research into which cannabis products work for which symptoms, patients will do their own ‘trial and error’ experiments, getting advice from friends, social media and dispensary employees.’