Annual data consistently shows the most commonly treated condition among medical cannabis users is chronic pain. There could be any number of reasons for that. Regardless, cannabis proponents like to remind critics that medical cannabis is an alternative to other types of treatments patients might not want to utilize.
What types of treatments are we talking about here? There are numerous possibilities. Some are pharmacological while others are either invasive or therapy based. Patients have legitimate concerns about each and every one of them.
Traditional Pain Medications
Medical cannabis falls under the alternative medicine category when compared against more traditional pain medications. Traditional medications can be broken down into two primary categories: over the counter (OTC) and prescription meds.
OTC medications include NSAIDs, analgesics, etc. You are talking about things like aspirin and ibuprofen. Prescription pain medications tend to be narcotic medications. Options like codeine and fentanyl automatically come to mind.
For many chronic pain patients, OTC medications are a waste of time. They do not even take the edge off. That leaves them few choices if they want to continue with a pharmacological approach. And yet, patients demonstrate a resistance to prescription pain meds knowing the dangers of long-term consumption.
Medical cannabis gives them an alternative. Whether right or wrong, growing numbers of cannabis patients see their drug of choice as a safer alternative to prescription narcotics. They want the option of using cannabis.
Invasive Surgical Procedures
Certain types of chronic pain patients ultimately wind up on the operating table after pharmacological solutions don’t help. Arthritis patients as well as those suffering from chronic back pain are typical candidates. They agree to an invasive surgical procedure in a desperate bid to stop the pain.
Unfortunately, surgeries have their own complications. Even worse is the fact that they do not always work. Patients can be left with the same pain problems long after surgical scars have healed. Turning to medical cannabis isn’t unusual in such cases.
Therapy-based treatments are yet another option for managing chronic pain. They run the gamut from physical therapy to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Sometimes there therapy-based treatments work wonders. Other times they fall flat. As with the other two options, patients need somewhere else to go when therapy doesn’t work.
Cannabis’ Efficacy As a Pain Reliever
Knowing the types of treatments medical cannabis replaces brings us to the question of how effective cannabis is as a pain reliever. According to the clinicians at Utah Marijuana, chronic pain management is the number one reason people use cannabis medically.
Knowing what I know about chronic pain from personal experience, I can tell you that desperate chronic pain patients would not continue using a drug that did not work. There is just no point in doing so. What they want is relief. If they find something that gives them the relief they seek, they will stick with it for the rest of their lives.
Patients Respond to Treatment Differently
A common complaint against cannabis as a chronic pain treatment is the fact that it doesn’t work for everyone. That is to be expected. Patients respond to treatment differently. So much so that there isn’t a single treatment that works for everyone. Many patients do not respond to surgical procedures or prescription meds. Many get no relief from physical therapy. Why would cannabis be any different?
Medical cannabis is not inherently better or worse than any other chronic pain treatment. But it is an alternative to traditional medications, invasive surgeries, and therapy. It deserves to be on the table when chronic pain patients are facing treatment choices.