Early on in that quest, people have already found out about the pain-relieving abilities of marijuana and the plant has already been largely used to treat a broad array of painful conditions from simple headache to childbirth pain. As a matter of fact, many advocates of medical marijuana who shared their testimonies during the public sessions hosted by the IOM even explained how the drug helped them alleviate their painful symptoms.
The nerve signals that the brain understands as pain begin in receptor-bearing cells that are triggered by touch, temperature, chemical changes in the environment, or movement. These pain signals move to the brain by one of the three main pathways whereby each creates varying pain sensations:
The experience that most people picture when they are to think about pain, a message communicated by receptors situated in the entire body whenever there is injury. Signals of somatic pain goes to the brain through peripheral nerves, and are characteristically felt as a constant dreary ache in the region where the injury is.
This happens when organs or tissues in the abdominal cavity is being stretched or disturbed because of injury or disease. Pain signals give from a particular class of receptors that can be found in the gut, causing feelings of pressure deeply within the abdomen; this kind of pain oftentimes appears to be coming from another part in the body than the actual source which is a phenomenon referred to as referred pain.
This kind of pain transpires when the nerves themselves are able to sustain injury and is often felt as a burning sensation that may happen as a response to even the gentlest touch. This kind of pain does not normally respond to narcotic painkillers; anticonvulsant or antidepressant and surgical procedure may improve cases of neuropathy.
Pain comes in different forms, it may be acute which is short lived and intense, or chronic which persist for days to years. Acute pain includes discomfort that follows surgery which is typically addressed by doctors through prescribing opiates or narcotic drugs derived from, or chemically similar to, opium. Chronic pain, on the other hand, opiates rarely bring relief and even when they are effective, opiates often cause nausea and sedation that usually become a burden to the long-term user. Also, people with chronic pain tend to develop tolerance to opiates over months or years and so must continually increase their dosage. Better pain medications become welcome in the pursuit of discovering more safe effective prescriptions to pain. The question then whether marijuana could be the source of sought-after drugs to relieve these pain remains.
In basic pain experiments on animals, it appeared that peripheral nerves that perceive pain sensations include plenty receptors for cannabinoids which have shown to obstruct peripheral nerve pain. It has also been discovered that cannabinoids and opiates repress pain through various mechanisms. The results somehow lead to the idea that medicines that are marijuana-based could be mixed with opiates to enhance their pain-relieving ability at the same time limiting side effects.
The glitch however is that because of logistical and ethical difficulties on doing experiments on pain on human volunteers, marijuana’s potential ability to alleviate pain is still to be confirmed in the clinic. Very few studies have been implemented in this line and only one ever since 1981 wherein most of the studies only tested the power of cannabinoids to alleviate chronic pain in people with acute pain or cancer after an injury or surgery. Also, after significantly studying existing research on pain relief and THC, the IOM team has come into a conclusion that cannabinoids can give from mild to moderate release from pain. They have also found out that the body’s natural cannabinoid system can play an innate role in pain control.
Among the clinical studies conducted on cannabinoids, the most believable and encouraging focuses on chronic pain among cancer patients. There are different ways that cancer brings pain which includes nerve injury, inflammation, and the attack of bone as well as other sensitive tissue by budding tumors. Pains due to cancer oftentimes tend to be persistent, resistant to cure with opiate painkillers, and severe; it is of this reason that researchers are expectant to find pain relievers that take action on the body in another way than opiates. In one research, 10 patients suffering from advanced cancer were given THC pills in four different doses and also placebo. Over successive days, each of these patients received the complete range of pills which were basically the same in appearance. Patients reported significant relief on days when they took the two highest doses – 15 and 20 milligrams of the drug as against 0, 5, and 10 milligrams.
Patients who took the highest dose, however, appeared to be heavily sedated although they reported experiencing less pain. They seemed to be dreamy and immobile and they were having disorganized thoughts and even illustrated feelings of unreality. Interestingly though that during the conduct of this study, not one of the patients experienced vomiting or nausea and more than half of them said that their appetite increased, which proposes that oral THC played as an appetite stimulant and an antiemetic and also as pain reliever. These impressions are somewhat alike with the anecdotal reports of marijuana users who reported to the IOM team that although the drug did entirely take the pain away, it helped them cope with the discomfort they were feeling.
A number of clinical cases have also appeared to address the ability of cannabinoids or marijuana to alleviate pain. Survey responses propose that marijuana can relief specific chronic syndromes of pain. In a survey including more than 100 habitual marijuana users diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, almost every participant said that marijuana aided to ease spasticity and limb pain. Also, many paraplegic patients who were interviewed in a prior survey said that smoking marijuana eased headache and phantom limb pain.
Not just a high. By- Seppa, Nathan, Science News, 00368423, 6_19_2010, Vol. 177, Issue 13