Neuropathic pain occurs from damage to nerve fibers or a malfunctioning of the nervous system. Approximately 8% of the U.S. population suffers from this debilitating problem, making it a contributing cause of disability. Uncontrolled neuropathic pain can become unbearable, therefore effective and safe management is paramount to maintaining a good quality of life for those who suffer from it. For many, cannabinoids may be a safer, more effective way to treat neuropathic pain.
Common Causes of Neuropathic Pain
- Facial nerve problems
- HIV infection or AIDS
- Multiple myeloma
- Multiple sclerosis
- Nerve or spinal cord compression from herniated discs or from arthritis in the spine
- Spine surgery
- Thyroid problems
Conventional Treatment for Neuropathic Pain
As a first line of treatment for neuropathic pain, doctors may prescribe anticonvulsants and antidepressants, and even non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like Aleve and Motrin.
Opioids, however, are common medications prescribed for patients with chronic pain, although the manner in which doctors are prescribing them is changing. They are effective and useful, but excessive use can lead to side effects, dependence, addiction, and of course death in the case of an overdose. Even patients with chronic neuropathic pain that do not develop addiction or dependence from regular use of opioids may develop unhealthy and abnormal drug-related behaviors. This, along with the limitations and caution doctors are more often exercising with regard to opioids, points to the need for a safe and effective alternative medicine.
Cannabinoids as a Safer, Natural, Effective Alternative
Cannabinoid therapy may be a potent, natural treatment option for chronic pain and an alternative to opioids that would not have the dangerous side effects. In fact, cannabinoids would offer additional benefits that could help bring a patient’s inner well-being back into balance. In some anecdotal cases, whole plant cannabis has been reported to fully substitute opioid usage.
A 2014 study published in JAMA found that opioid-related deaths were lower in states where cannabis was legalized.
Cannabinoids Suppress Diverse Neuropathic Pain
Cannabidiol (CBD) along with many of the other 113 known cannabinoids possess analgesic effects. Research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health is studying the role of CBD in relief of symptoms associated with:
Though cannabis has been used as an analgesic for centuries now, its actual mechanism of action was not fully understood until the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the 1990s. Cannabinoid receptors located in the endocannabinoid system of the body enhance the activities of cannabinoids in the body. Cannabinoids suppress allodynia (pain associated with normal stimuli) and hyperalgesia (a hyper-sensitivity to pain) associated with neuropathic pain conditions through the CB1 and CB2 receptor mechanisms. Consequently, cannabinoids control neuropathic pain by bringing balance the ECS and homeostasis to the inner well-being of a person, via targeting of the endocannabinoid receptors. Previous clinical studies have verified that cannabinoids have a great potential of suppressing various neuropathic pain in humans.
We already know through incalculable anecdotal accounts and a great deal of clinical studies, that cannabinoids have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. We know the negative effects of opioids and the opioid addiction crisis the U.S is currently going through. Doctors are prescribing them cautiously or not at all. With the discovery of so many hemp-derived cannabinoids, the majority of which are non-psychoactive, the sensible and humane thing to do is research the various strains and their effects on debilitating diseases, disorders, and conditions like neuropathic pain. Cannabinoids could potentially decrease disability, eliminate prescription-related opioid addiction, and increase the quality of life for millions of people. What are we waiting for?
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