If you suffer with chronic pain, you know how debilitating it can be. It takes the joy out of living and makes every day a struggle just to have a normal life. With chronic pain you can no longer do the things you once loved, and many days you can barely do the things that make up your daily routine, like walking, bending, or even grasping a fork.
Whether you suffer from arthritis, fibromyalgia, headache, muscle strains, or any other type of pain, the remedies available to you are the same. If your pain is episodic, your doctor might recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin, or acetaminophen, like Tylenol. If your pain is chronic and severe, you might be prescribed opioids or benzodiazepines like Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, or fentanyl; or even corticosteroids like Prednisone and Aristospan are sometimes prescribed. But there are drawbacks to all of those choices.
The drawbacks of most types of pain relief
Opioids are dangerous. They are highly addictive, and it’s easy to overdose on them. Sadly, every day more than 115 people in the U.S. die of an opioid overdose. It is now the most common cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. The epidemic is so serious that in 2018 the White House and the Centers for Disease Control launched a campaign to reduce opioid use.
NSAIDs can also be dangerous. Lynn Webster, MD, past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, says that “deaths from GI bleeding linked to NSAIDs rival deaths from opioids, according to some estimates.”
And corticosteroids have the potential to speed up joint destruction. Other side effects include immune system suppression, gastrointestinal issues, and psychiatric effects.
So it’s little wonder that pain sufferers are now turning to cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant.
More people are turning to cannabinoids for pain relief
Cannabis has been used to treat pain since as early as 2737 BC, when a Chinese medical text, the Pen Ts’ao Ching, recommended it for pain and rheumatism. Today more and more doctors, scientists, health authorities, and politicians are supporting CBD in the fight against pain. Even Harvard Health, a publication of Harvard Medical School, states that cannabis is “quite effective” for treating chronic pain, and is safer than opiates. What’s more, after conducting an exhaustive review of the scientific literature on cannabinoids, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that chronic pain patients treated with cannabinoids are “more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms.” A separate scientific review concluded that cannabinoids show “promising results” in pain management.
There is also a movement in professional football to approve cannabinoids for treatment of pain. Part of their interest is because of the sport’s overreliance on drugs: Retired NFL players use opioids at four times the rate of the general population. One former NFL player who now uses cannabis says
I have to manage it somehow. Managing it with pills was slowly killing me. Now I’m able to function and be extremely efficient.
Interestingly, your body produces its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids (ECS), which help regulate important functions such as sleep, immune system responses, and pain. CBD works by influencing your body to use its own endocannabinoids. It does this by activating specific receptors in your brain and body that are responsible for regulating the release of the neurotransmitters that manage pain levels. These receptors suppress both pain and inflammation.
New evidence is coming out all the time about the effectiveness of CBD in managing pain. It comes from scientific studies, endorsements from the medical establishment, and friends and family who report positive results. All of which is giving pain sufferers the confidence they need to try CBD for their own pain relief.