Cannabis & Pain Management: What Patients Need To Know

Cannabis & Pain Management: What Patients Need To Know

A landmark study released in early 2017 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found “evidence to support that patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids were more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms”.

In August 2019, a study published in Experimental Biology showed “combining opioids and marijuana may be advantageous for pain sufferers”.

With so much positive evidence as to the effectiveness of medical marijuana in the treatment of pain, many patients who are already enrolled within pain management programs are curious about becoming legal cannabis patients as well. Unfortunately many pain clinicians in Florida seem to be either ignorant of the law, ignorant of the safety profile of cannabis, or more focused on their own profits over their patients. 

Cannabis is Safe to Use With Opioids

For physicians wary about the combination of opioid class pain medicines and THC/CBD (the chemicals found within cannabis that help provide the most pain relief), simple science tells us there is no real risk to the patient in combining the two. 

From a biological standpoint, cannabis binds to the endocannabinoid receptors found throughout the body. Pain medications, most commonly opioid medicines, bind to the Mu receptors. Since we’re talking about two different systems within the body, the risks associated with cannabis use in combination with opioid drugs are minimal. 

There may be a risk, depending on the patient’s level of debilitation, of unsteadiness or dizziness due to the effects of THC on the patient. This risk is minimal compared to the benefit cannabis can bring when you factor in the pain relief provided by cannabinoids coupled with the ability (in a long term treatment plan) to possibly reduce the amounts of prescription opioids needed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even went on record in 2016 urging pain clinicians not to hold positive urine test results for THC against legal patients: “clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear. For example, experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahyrdocannabinol (THC).”

Cannabis or Opioids: Sophie’s Choice

In my 2.5 years of helping patients achieve a better sense of wellness with cannabis I’ve seen a lot of (in my opinion) immoral behavior perpetrated onto patients by pain clinicians. Many uneducated doctors, fearing some non-existent action by the Department of Health, instruct patients they need to choose between their opioids and cannabis.

One pain doctor in Sarasota even went as far as to tell patients they had to choose “one or the other”, but if they purchased over the counter CBD products from his display in his front office he wouldn’t kick them out of his pain management program.

These doctors aren’t putting their patient’s well being first. Whether it be because of a general lack of education (of cannabis, its interactions, and CDC guidance), or pure greed, many Florida pain clinicians are putting their patients in an unnecessary difficult spot.

Don’t Give Up Hope

Luckily, there are many pain clinicians that understand the many benefits of their pain management patients becoming legal medical marijuana users. Here at Medicann Clinic, we work with a select group of pain management specialists whom we collaborate with to treat mutual patients with cannabis and their existing pain medications. 

Finding a proactive and compassionate medical marijuana doctor is key.

For many patients reductions in their pharmaceutical pain medications is a typical outcome. Our own data suggests – in particular – opioid medications are the most reduced class of drug by patients using medical marijuana.

But for others, opioids and other controlled medications are never able to be completely reduced. Contrary to popular sentiment with the opioid crisis, pain medications are a viable form of treatment for some individuals suffering from chronic pain issues. 

In any case, no patient should ever be told “choose one or the other” when it comes to pain management and cannabis. 

Schedule With Us

If you’re currently enrolled within a pain management program and live in the Sarasota / Charlotte / Lee county area and are considering medical marijuana, give us a call at 941-888-0723 or make an appointment online. Should your current pain clinician not be cannabis positive, we have select pain management practices that we refer and recommend patients to – ensuring you don’t ever have to make a choice between cannabis and your other prescriptions. 

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