To answer this question, one must first understand the physical nature of pain, which is no easy feat. The medical dictionary definition of pain is “anything that causes physical or mental discomfort and distress to an individual via intense or damaging stimuli”. The Free Dictionary defines Pain as “an unpleasant feeling that is conveyed to the brain by sensory neurons.”
If a picture paints a thousand words and those words include “intense”, “damaging” and “distress”, I would not want to see that picture even if it were painted by Edvard Munch. That being said, we all endure pain, whether of the body or the mind, at some point in our lives.
The science of physical pain is fairly well understood and way beyond the scope of this article; the chemistry of mental anguish remains a mystery. To treat pain, physicians employ a plethora of modalities: pharmaceutical, physio-therapeutical, surgical, psychoanalytical, etc. The goal being that some combination of treatments will, if not cure, at least alleviate pain to a noticeable degree.
Each mode of intervention may work to some degree but many have side effects that can be far worse than the cure. How many times have you heard of someone needing one pill to counter the effects of another? How many times has the first operation on a low back led to five or six more? How many times has someone gone from once a fortnight on the couch to twice weekly? Pain is an elusive mistress that at times cannot be tamed.
Ultimately, a physician uses every tool in his or her armamentarium to combat pain. One useful tool that is grossly underutilized is cannabis. Fact: cannabis treats pain. Fact: cannabis is not addictive. Fact: no one has ever overdosed on cannabis alone. How does cannabis treat pain? Fact: I do not know. In my defense, no one does.
However, there is some science out there looking at how cannabis treats pain. To give the gist of this research: cannabis is full of cannabinoids and terpenoids like THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, Myrcene, Linalool and lots of other cannabinoids and terpenes besides. Many of them are anti-inflammatories, can bust stress & anxiety and essentially help regulate a person’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The fact that cannabis works with the ECS is what makes it so special, as the ECS is involved in all types of pain, whether somatic, visceral and/or neuropathic.
In the United States, The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 narcotic along with heroin and cocaine. Schedule 1 drugs are designated as such because they have no medical value, at least according to the DEA. This is a criminal travesty to anyone who successfully uses cannabis to treat his or her physical or mental pain.
By law, medical research cannot be sanctioned by the federal government for Schedule 1 drugs. Can we discover how cannabis treats pain? Probably, if we could do the research. Until cannabis is reclassified or declassified, we will not learn how cannabis treats pain.
After interviewing thousands of pain patients, from a physician’s standpoint, I am convinced that cannabis alleviates pain. Do not take my word for it, do your own research.. Speak to the millions of patients who use it daily. They may not know how it works. They just know that it works.