The Center for Peripheral Neuropathy at the University of Chicago defines neuropathy not as a single disease but rather as a “series of disorders that result from damage to the body’s peripheral nervous system(PNS).” People who suffer from peripheral neuropathy deal with the loss of sensation, numbness, weakness, burning or tingling pain in the extremities. Conventional treatment for patients with neuropathic pain consists of prescription medication, injection therapy, and physical therapy. While the use of injection and physical therapy in addition to prescribed medication, there is a critical issue with prescription drugs as treatment for neuropathic pain. The effective dosage of the drug that is necessary to suppress the pain increases as the condition progresses; the side effects that arise due to the medications used to treat the disease may worsen patients’ conditions and quality of life.
Research strongly suggests the use of medical marijuana as an alternative way to effectively reduce pain in patients dealing with antiretroviral therapy, chemotherapy, or even as a substitute for painkillers. However, the federal government still classifies medical marijuana as a schedule 1 drug which determines that cannabis has “no currently accepted medical use;” as an article published in the Neuropathy-Journal reports.
Despite the challenges and the stigma that medical marijuana faces, sufficient studies confirm the ability of medical marijuana to relieve symptoms of patients who suffer from neuropathic pain. In Florida, patients have reported great results with topical products such as Trulieve’s topical ointment.
In 2010 a study conducted a controlled trial to test the effects of smoked cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain. Their findings reported that “a single inhalation of 25 mg of 9.4% tetrahydrocannabinol herbal cannabis three times daily for five days reduced the intensity of pain, improved sleep and was well tolerated.” The study further showed that oral cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, and nabilone have, “alone and in combination, shown efficacy in central and peripheral neuropathic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia.” While a study done in 2013 demonstrated that “cannabis has analgesic efficacy with the low dose being as effective a pain reliever as the medium dose;” opening the doors of alternative treatment for patients that are resistant to conventional ways of managing their pain. Moreover, a 2012 study reported that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of marijuana, and its modified derivatives “significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain without causing apparent analgesic tolerance.” The study further sustains that the analgesic potency of 11 structurally similar cannabinoids are positively correlated with the potentiation of glycine receptors(GlyRs) and don’t show a correlation with the “binding affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors, nor their psychoactive side effects.” These findings offer a peace of mind to patients that are worried about the psychoactive effects associated with the use of marijuana and hence maybe skeptical about this alternative route.
In 2017 potguide.com published an article that discussed the cannabis strains that are best in treating neuropathic pain; the choices offered are based on the strains’ chemical makeup including “cannabinoids, terpene profiles, and THC-TO-CBD ratios.” The balanced hybrid White Widow is highly recommended for its “pain, stress and sleep-relief qualities,” and it will provide a boost of energy to its users. If, on the other hand, the patient is looking for a way to rest while dealing with the pain then Afghan Kush, a strong Indica strand, is an alternative; due to its resin content, it has a heavy relaxation and pain relief effect on the body. For patients looking for a way to manage their pain while going on about their daily routine, the Sativa-dominant hybrid Jack Flash may be a more desirable option. The strand is known to be a painkiller and neuro-protector, and it has been shown “to have antitumor and inflammation effects.” Patients suffering from neuropathic pain have reported some concerns about the side effect of smoking cannabis; hence, a better option for patients that have those concerns could be found in vaporizing cannabis. The vaporizer “dehydrates the flower and releases the cannabinoids without ever catching fire,” eliminating the carcinogenic chemicals and smoke that result from combusting the flower.
Weather smoking cannabis or using a vaporizer, studies strongly suggest that medical marijuana is efficient in managing and reducing the pain associated with neuropathy. Furthermore, while some dependency on the habit of consuming medical marijuana is a noted concern of patients, the overall effect of addiction to cannabis is still up for debate and is substantially less than the addictive properties of opiates, and other FDA approved drugs.