Do you know which medical condition costs up to $635 billion annually? Chronic pain. Shocking right? These numbers are even higher than that of cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. That’s because, along with having no cure, chronic pain inhibits the person from being productive.
On top of that, 1 in every 5 people in the US suffers from chronic pain. That amounts to about 50 million of the total population. These statistics only point towards the need for a better solution.
But if you look up the treatments for chronic pain, more than a dozen options pop up. Acupuncture, drug therapy, physical therapy, surgery, narcotics, and the list goes on. So the question remains, which treatment do you choose? Looking at the consensus, it’s obvious that the two commonly used and the most debated treatment for pain are opioids and medical cannabis.
The debate between these two has gained momentum since the legalization of cannabis in several US states. Studies show that since the states allowed medical use of cannabis, opioid prescriptions reduced significantly. But opioids still exist as an effective pain medication. So, should you treat your pain with a prescription of opioids that has resulted in an epidemic on its own? Or should it be medical cannabis that the federal government hasn’t legalized yet? Well, there has been some closure to this debate.
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The preference of the majority lies with medical cannabis. As many as 93% of chronic pain patients are ready to use cannabis over opioids if it’s readily available. There are several reasons why this opinion exists and continues to grow. Let’s look at a few.
What are Opioids?
Opioids, also known as narcotics or painkillers, are medications used to provide relief from severe or chronic pain. These are effective in overcoming pain with feelings of pleasure by reacting with the opioid receptors. However, opioids can only be used after obtaining a legit prescription from a trained physician because it’s a risky medication.
How Risky are Opioid Prescriptions?
There’s a reason why opioid prescriptions are only provided by adequately trained physicians and monitored by authorities. If it were to be used like any other over the counter painkillers, it would wreak havoc. Opioids should be used only after a physician accesses the patient, determines when to start, chooses the right dosage, plans the prescription’s duration, and informs the patient about how to slowly and carefully discontinue. But, if these guidelines aren’t followed, opioids can cause more harm than good.
Unwanted and intolerable side effects
Opioids are psychoactive drugs that can alter your brain functions to reduce pain and generate happy feelings. However, along with providing therapeutic effects, opioids also cause side effects that are often intolerable. Regular consumption of opioids will result in side effects like drowsiness, constipation, nausea, difficulty breathing, and increased pain sensitivity.
One of the significant risks of using opioids as a medication is the chances of developing Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). Opioids are addicting and will lead to unavoidable dependence. In addition to this, your tolerance will also increase with regular use, which calls for an increase in dosage. All these factors will make it impossible for you to discontinue the medication. And if you try, the withdrawal symptoms will be severe. These may include anxiety, persistent sweating, muscle, and abdominal pain, vomiting, etc.
Opioids also act as a gateway drug to heroin, especially for people who cannot deal with withdrawal or can’t afford opioids anymore. This is how opioid addiction and dependence increases.
Even patients using prescribed opioids can overdose on it easily. And when that happens, the effects may result in risky situations. For example, an overdose may lead to blood circulation; the patient may become unconscious and may even need hospitalization.
Presently, the US is dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic as well as an opioid epidemic. Increased prescription and illegal sales of opioids have increased the rate of deaths by opioid overdose. It reached a point wherein 2017, the HHS declared it a public health emergency. Even today, the numbers are not slowing down. The pandemic has created a situation of stress and despair that worsens people suffering from opioid use disorder. As a result, the death toll is also resurging.
But all these factors cannot deny the fact that opioids are indeed helpful in bringing normalcy to the life of patients suffering from chronic pain. Their quality of life improves, and the inability to work is eliminated. But considering its side effects, there needs to be a better alternative that will allow the people to pass their days without feeling miserable.
How can Medical Cannabis be an Effective Alternative?
Cannabis can be used in different forms to deliver symptomatic relief for several ailments. Just like opioids, medical cannabis can only be used after a consultation with a trained doctor. They will access your medical history and condition and give you a cannabis card or recommendation that will allow you to buy and use cannabis. In recent times, medical cannabis has exhibited massive potential as a treatment for pain. It has come at par with opioids as a pain treatment. Here’s why.
Reduces Chances of Opioid Overdose
The research related to cannabis and pain is scant, but the evaluation of the patients using cannabis for pain reveals that it can significantly reduce dependence on opioids.
Some patients use the combination of cannabis and opioids for pain and have experienced lower side effects, withdrawal, and cravings. Cannabis also increases the analgesic effects of opioids and thus reduces the need for a high dose. As a result, the risk of a fatal opioid overdose and high tolerance decreases.
Cannabis Overdose Isn’t Fatal.
You can overdose on cannabis just like opioids; however, a cannabis overdose isn’t fatal. There haven’t been any reports of death due to cannabis overdose to date. So cannabis is a safer option than opioids. But this should not be an excuse for overindulgence. As recommended by a trained professional, following the dose is necessary because fatal or not, an overdose can cause a miserable experience. In any case, the feeling will pass, and you will return to your normal state.
Causes More Tolerable Effects
If you are using cannabis in a controlled manner and following the right dosage, you will only experience its therapeutic effects. If there are any side effects, it will be mild cases of red eyes, cough (if you are smoking), and increased hunger. If you overdose, the effects may include loss of reflexes, confusion, nausea, fatigue, and headache. But you can sober up from the high by trying tricks like having a cold shower, ingesting CBD, or sleeping until the high subsides.
Just As Effective As Opioids For Pain
The best thing about using cannabis instead of opioids is that cannabis can curb the pain just as effectively as opioids but without life-threatening situations. Cannabis is a psychoactive drug and reacts with the CB receptors in the body to inhibit pain signals from the affected area to the brain. It also increases the production of neurotransmitters, which is what causes the euphoric feeling. So a patient with chronic pain can substitute opioids with medical cannabis without compromising safety.
Despite the rising popularity of medical cannabis, the debate between cannabis and opioids continues. Some doctors prefer cannabis as a safe treatment, while others will stick to opioids that are backed with more scientific data. The decision, in the end, will depend on you. Which option will you choose to treat your chronic pain?
Hey, my name is Russell Miller, and I am a passionate blogger. I have been writing blogs on Medical marijuana, 420 evaluation, and CBD articles for three years. For many websites and drive good traffic for them.