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A Doctor’s Perspective – Do You Have to Be “High” to Get Pain Relief from Cannabis?

This is a difficult question, as you should always consider the question, “What condition am I trying to get relief from?” For some conditions, like anxiety or relief from cancer treatment side-effects, it may be beneficial for the person using cannabis to get “stoned” or “high”. For those who are suffering from epilepsy or need marijuana topicals for skin conditions, the psychoactive components of marijuana may be unnecessary or even undesirable.

This is, of course, a simplistic view. Some people who might suffer from, say, multiple sclerosis (MS) may find relief from the psychoactive effects of cannabis, whereas others may not. To get even more complex, there are also differences in the effects of particular strains of cannabis. Everyone has their own, individual endocannabinoid system (ECS), meaning that some strains will prove to be effective, some ineffective and others downright intolerable.

This may mean that some low-THC-high-CBD strains will be effective – as will some high-THC strains – whilst some low-THC-high-CBD strains will be ineffective. The reason for this? Different types of cannabis from different parts of the world have different concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenoids.

Determining the cannabinoid profile of a strain is what will tell you most about its effects, as well as whether it will be a strain that will suit your own ECS. The best way to do this is looking at the genetics behind the strain, as well as asking your budtender specifics like, “How and where was it grown?” and if a hybrid, “Is this sativa- or indica- dominant?”

So, to give you an answer to the question, “No, you don’t necessarily have to be stoned to get relief from cannabis. However, choosing a psychoactive strain may prove beneficial to your condition.” To take an example: the stone/high may be relieving pain that would otherwise need strong, addictive painkillers to alleviate. In such an instance, marijuana effectively replaces opiates/opioids.

However, for people suffering from conditions like epilepsy, the stoned/high effect might well be not only unnecessary but undesirable, too. This is especially the case where children are concerned, or if you’re doing a dangerous job. Therefore, a CBD-rich strain like ACDC, Charlotte’s Web or Cannatonic will be most effective for the relief without the high.

So, how does the relief without the high work? Basically, it’s because cannabis has many cannabinoids and terpenoids that are beneficial to humans. Many of these cannabinoids are weak psychoactives, or not psychoactive at all. CBD is just one example, but there’s also cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC) and many more.

Non-psychoactive cannabinoids tend to have an affinity for the CB2 receptors in the body, whereas psychoactive cannabinoids have an affinity for CB1 receptors in the brain. However, non-psychoactive cannabinoids can attenuate and alter the stone/high achieved from THC. This is one of the reasons why pure THC even in low doses can be uncomfortable for some, whilst using a whole plant extract or a marijuana flowers can prove to be more pleasant and less overwhelming.

Using marijuana in this manner is also better for taking advantage of the “Entourage Effect” – CBD is usually more effective when it has other cannabinoids to help it along This is also one of the reasons why I recommend most people stick to whole plant extracts and flowers, rather than go “cannabinoid hunting” and look for purified extracts stripped of other cannabinoids.

Seedsman offers a number of medically beneficial strains, including the 20:1 CBD:THC strain Candida from Medical Marijuana Genetics. Click here to browse through our medical seeds library.

Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.

Dr. Frank D'Ambrosio

Frank D'Ambrosio M.D. is an orthopaedic surgeon with over 30 years of experience, host of the cannabis advocacy radio show Elevate the Conversation and published author.

After seeing patients walk in and out of surgery in extreme pain and often becoming addicted to opiate- and opioid- based painkillers, he knew a change in practice was needed.

Then came along cannabis, and the increasing number of scientific studies proving its efficacy for a number of conditions. Dr. Frank would become fascinated by the science behind cannabis, and in it saw a potential way to end the prescription painkiller crisis throughout the US and the world today.

By 2011, Dr. Frank set up a practice dedicated to helping patients through medical marijuana. He now runs a practice in Los Angeles, and wants to bring a change in the way the scientific establishment, policy makers and the general public sees marijuana.

For more about Dr. Frank, check out his website