Opioids vs Cannabis for Chronic Pain
Opioids are part of a broad group of analgesic chemicals that can be found in illegal drugs like heroin, in medicines based on the royal poppy such as Morphine, or synthesized in a laboratory for medicines like Fentalino. They are usually prescribed after surgery, serious injury, or cancer pain.
Consuming opioids without a doctor’s prescription or abusing doses can have fatal consequences. Since opioids have the property of relaxing breathing, for example, an overdose of this medicine could cause the respiratory system to stop completely and cause the death of the patient.
Although short term use of opioids controlled by a doctor can have positive effects on the health of the patient, they can also create addiction and dependency, increasing the chances of the person suffering from a fatal overdose.
Medical marijuana uses the chemicals within the cannabis plant to treat a large number of different conditions such as sleep disorders, muscle pain, anxiety, migraines, nausea associated with chemotherapy, among others. It is mainly used as a treatment to control pain.
Although using recreational marijuana may help in the treatment of these conditions, it is recommended that a doctor prescribe marijuana-based medications since specialists prescribe medications with a specific balance of the main components of the plant (THC and CBD) as required by the patient.
Why Are These Types Of Medications Prescribed For Chronic Pain?
Opioid-based medications have analgesic properties. When these opioid-based medications first enter the body, they distribute through the blood, binding to opioid receptors in brain neurons. Finally, these cells release signals that dampen pain perception and increase the sensation of pleasure, subsequently reducing the feeling of pain.
On the other hand, cannabis’ main compounds offer pain relief and help alleviate nausea and other symptoms. These compounds are known as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both are the leading components regarding pain relief, the reason why most cannabis research focuses on them. For instance, peripheral nerves that detect pain sensations work with receptors for cannabinoids, and these appear to restrain peripheral nerve pain in experimented animals. This could potentially work similarly in the human body.
THC and other cannabinoids in our body resemble each other. When THC is ingested by users, it stimulates the cannabinoids in our brain. Consequently, the brain’s reward system is activated, reducing the pain levels in our body. THC is also a psychoactive compound giving the users that “high” feeling. However, CBD does not cause an elevated state of mind such as being “high”, rather it interacts with pain receptors in the brain to produce pain-relief and anti-inflammatory effects.
Is Medical Cannabis Better Than Opioids?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2000 to 2016, there have been 600,000 deaths worldwide from overdoses of prescription opioids, a number that is still on the rise.
As previously mentioned, opioids show positive results in short-term, doctor-controlled treatments, but the risks of an overdose are increased when using opioid-based medications to treat chronic pain.
THC is responsible for the “high” effect in people and its short-term effects are motor difficulties, verbal difficulties, retention of information, among others. This makes the daily activities of patients become difficult to perform. No CBD study to date, according to the World Health Organization, attributes to the creation of dependency or abuse of the substance in people.
Globally, there have been no recorded deaths from overdoses of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use.
Without a doubt, both drugs treat chronic pain alongside their side effects. However, hundreds of patients around the world are seeking a more natural and less risky treatment, voluntarily changing their treatments from opioid-based drugs to marijuana-based drugs to alleviate their symptoms and treat chronic pain.
Start Your Medical Cannabis Treatment Today!
If you are looking to treat your chronic pain condition with a cannabis-based treatment, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Smart Leaf Health Services. Schedule an appointment today.