People who experience chronic pain, whether it be from arthritis, a chronic injury or from non-physical ailments such as anxiety and epilepsy, they will wonder whether using cannabis pain relief products is right for them, and what the risks and disadvantages are.
This blog post covers everything you need to know about cannabis pain relief products with focus on CBD (cannabinoid) products, which is typically the compound in marijuana that doesn’t give people the ‘high’ effect. Also, some products that do include THC (the compound that gives the ‘high’ effect) levels higher than 0.3 percent are briefly mentioned.
A Quick Word of Caution
Cannabis pain relief products come in multiple forms, such as oils, balms/creams, edibles, and inhalers. Some are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws, so you’ll need to check them out depending on your state.
Also, CBD products aren’t under the FDA policy, so they could be inaccurately labelled.
Another thing to note is that these Cannabis products are not ‘cures’ or full treatments. They just help people manage their pain and will most probably be used multiple times. There is also the ‘placebo effect’ that should be considered, and the euphoria of THC containing products that simply makes one not care so much about the pain they're experiencing.
Are Cannabis Products Effective in Pain Management?
Yes, they sure can be. CBD and other cannabinoids act on cannabinoid receptors found in the body, which, combined with naturally occurring cannabinoids, make up the endocannabinoid system. Generally, this system plays a key role in endogenous pain control.
This system consists of complex cell signalling pathways in the central nervous system and immune system. The binding of cannabinoid 1 and 2 receptors in the body stimulates different cell signalling pathways that influence pain, and while it is selective and doesn’t work for every type of pain, it works for some.
THC aids with the euphoric feeling and also binds to certain cannabinoid receptors in the nerve cells while CBD is interferes with the serotonin pathway and has some influence on glycine receptors, which may be involved with pain.
The studies on cannabis pain relief products are somewhat centred around observational studies and self-reporting, which means that for many people, the used they’ve brought may produce different effects compared to the next person.
The answer to the question "Which is better for pain relief, THC or CBD?" is a tricky one. There is no definitive answer because there is simply a lack of research. However, many doctors believe that it is a combination of THC and CBD that shows promise for solid pain relief. Nonetheless, it is more difficult to obtain THC-containing products that are legally approved, compared to only CBD-containing products. It also depends on whether people want to avoid the psychedelic effects of THC.
Here are 8 Medical Conditions That CBD Can Help With
- Arthritis - They general consensus is that CBD pain relief products are useful for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They help reduce inflammations and pains.
- Anxiety and depression- There are also studies that provide "preclinical evidence that strongly supports CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders", including PTSD, OCD, generalized anxiety disorders, and seasonal effective disorder.
- Epilepsy- CBD is shown to be effective at reducing the number of seizures associated with a form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
- Symptoms relating to cancer - CBD has shown to reduce nausea and vomiting often accompanying chemotherapy.
- Acne and other skin issues- Some studies have suggested that CBD could be a potent anti-acne agent, likely because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
- High blood pressure - Research on a small group of healthy men ages 19-29 who had never taken cannabis before, showed that when they had a single dose of CBD it reduced their resting blood pressure by 6mmHg.
- Addiction - CBD has shown promise in fighting addiction to opioids, cocaine, alcohol and tobacco since it doesn’t give the ‘high’ feeling cannabis users often crave.
- Diabetes - Some observational studies suggest that people who take marijuana have lower fasting insulin levels and measures of insulin resistance.
There have also been studies suggesting some efficacy for migraines, fibromyalgia (chronic fatigue) and other pain conditions. However, the different routes of administration and dosages differ in their effects and present an unclear picture. More research is definitely needed.
Related Article: What is Medical Marijuana? | What are its Uses & Side Effects?
How To Use Cannabis Products For Pain Management
Cannabis products do two things: bind to cannabinoid receptors for pain relief, and THC-containing products cause the ‘high’ that helps people deal with pain. The most common use of cannabis pain relief products is by people with arthritis and other chronic musculoskeletal pain.
In using cannabis products, the first thing you need to ask yourself is whether you would like a CBD-only product, or a product that has THC as well. THC activates certain cannabinoid receptors, one of which is in nerve cells and the other is in immune cells. It also gives a euphoric feeling that can help people not care as much that they are experiencing pain.
Other factors you may want to consider in your decision about cannabis products are the side effects and legal concerns in the state/country you live in.
CBD comes in many forms, including oils and tinctures, gummies, oral capsules and pills, creams, balms, and topical patches. It’s important to always start at a lower dose and work your way up to see what dose suits your needs. The product you select is ultimately a personal preference and what works for your ailment. Topical CBD products are very good for applying to specific parts of the body, such as an arthritic joint. The drawback is that they need to be massaged in and may take a longer time to cause their effects.
CBD gummies and capsules are for oral ingestion, but since they need to be absorbed through the stomach lining, they can take a longer time to cause pain relief.
CBD oils and tinctures are more versatile forms, and they usually come with a dropper. People can either add a few drops of CBD oil to food or beverages, or place a few drops underneath their tongue where they can hold the oil for up to one minute before swallowing.
Of course, you should always follow the instructions on the packaging during use. Having said that, sometimes it’s worthwhile to adjust dosages if you think the product isn’t working at its best, or if the benefits outweigh the side effects, and vice versa.
Risk and Side Effects of Using Cannabis Products for Pain Management
It is most likely that people will react differently to each cannabis pain relief product, and it also depends on the dosage and other co-morbidities. This list combines CBD and THC products.
Mild risks and side-effects:
- Increased appetite
- Red eyes
- Increased heart rate
- Coordination problems
- Dry mouth
- Mood changes
- Slower reaction times
- Weight changes
Severe risks and side-effects:
- Potentially severe interactions with certain medications such as blood thinners (e.g. Warfarin), which can either increase or decrease the concentration of certain drugs in the bloodstream.
- Liver damage
- Fertility problems in males
- Potentially severe interactions with alcohol
Examples of Cannabis Products for Pain
When deciding which products to use for your pain, think about whether you value a full-body effect compared to a topical effect (e.g., a transdermal patch compared to a lotion), and whether you would prefer a quick-acting product or don’t mind waiting a while for the effects to kick in (this usually means the effects also last longer overall).
These considerations will help you decide what type of product you would like to use. Price, convenience, legality, and side-effects are also really important in deciding which brand or sub-section of the type of product you want to use.
CBDfx Gummies with Tumeric and Spirulina: The CBDfx company offers a full spectrum of CBD gummies that contain 25mg of CBD each (each drop of CBD oil contains around 5mg of CBD). Alongside turmeric, which may help manage inflammatory and pain conditions (to an extent, as the body’s metabolism does reduce its effectiveness), there is also spirulina, which is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Charlotte’s Web Recovery CBD Gummies: These CBD-infused gummies contain hemp-extracted CBD, ginger and turmeric. These gummies are said to help support healthy joints and exercise-induced inflammation. There is 5mg of CBD in each gummy.
Charlotte’s Web Hemp-Infused Cooling Gel with CBD: This cooling gel contains full-spectrum CBD, menthol and arnica. It is also free of parabens and synthetic fragrances. Each bottle (1.7 ounces) contains about 510mg of CBD.
CBDMedic Massage Therapy Pain Relief oil: This product is THC free and the manufacturer claims it has undergone third-party testing. It contains methol, camphor and natural oils that may help relieve minor muscular aches and pains and is hypoallergenic. A single 103ml bottle contains about 200mg of hemp-extracted CBD.
Vertly Relief Lotion: This relief lotion contains full-spectrum CBD extract, arnica flowers, shea butter, magnesium, and essential oils, making for a well-rounded and gentle feeling and smelling lotion. Once massaged into areas of muscle pain, it can help with inflammation and tightness while the skin is healing from wounds. It also generally moisturizes the skin well. One bottle contains around 155mg of CBD.
PureKana CBD Transdermal Patches: These transdermal patches can be worn for up to 4 days. They are waterproof and each contain 60mg of CBD. PureKana recommends that people place the patch on a flat, dry area such as the stomach or lower back. The pain relieving effects will spread throughout the body, so it doesn’t need to be placed right on the area of muscle pain.
Many high-quality products undergo third-party testing by laboratories not affiliated with the manufacturer. These laboratories test CBD products for pesticides, heavy metals, microbes, and harmful chemicals. Products that undergo third-party testing will have a certificate of analysis, which is a document that contains information about the product’s CBD potency, the presence of THC and other cannabinoids, and safety test results.
There are so many CBD pain relief products on the market. Make sure you do your research before purchasing and trying them out. You may get unwanted side-effects or sub-par results if you fall into the trap of purchasing a non-tested or low-quality CBD pain relief product.
What is the FDA's View On Using Cannabis Products For Pain?
The FDA only regulates one CBD-containing drug called Epidiolex (higher in CBD, low in THC, whole-plant alcohol extract), which treats rare forms of epilepsy in children 2 years of age and older. This means that the FDA does not regulate commercially available CBD products. Consumers should be careful about seeking high-quality products from reputable manufacturers and retailers, because many may be mislabelled. For example, a product that claims to have little to no traces of THC may be unregulated and have enough THC for unwanted side-effects.
The FDA has also approved Marinol (AbbVie) and Syndros (Insys Therapeutics), which both contain synthetic THC. Both are indicated for weight loss associated with anorexia and HIV. Marinol is also indicated for severe nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy, as is the FDA-approved Cesamet (Meda Pharmaceuticals). Cesamet contains nabilone, which has a chemical structure similar to THC.
CBD pain relief products are a good option for people with certain conditions, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, and nausea from chemotherapy. It is important to remember that there is relatively little testing and regulation for CBD products, and the results are variable and may not work for you. Having said that, you may find the solution to your chronic ailment in CBD products. Happy hunting.