Marijuana For Pain (Understand how Marijuana Helps with Pain)

by | May 10, 2021 | Conditions, Health & Relief

Updated on November 26, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Shatha Atiya.

Marijuana for pain; particularly chronic pain is the leading reason people seek medical marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal (medical states).

Statistics show that 33% of medical marijuana patients in medical states got their medical cards for chronic pain.

More significantly, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 80% of users taking marijuana for pain found it extremely helpful. 

Moreover, 82% of those taking over-the-counter pain medication and 88% of those taking opioids either stopped or reduced their medication when using cannabis. 

When it comes to chronic pain, traditional medicine and therapies may fail. And in instances when the medicine is effective, it is usually accompanied by far-reaching side effects.

Medical marijuana contrastingly is effective in treating chronic pain, and with minimal side effects. Whether it’s a common type of pain like back pain or a more rare and difficult pain to treat such as neuropathic pain.

Ahead, questions including “How does marijuana help with pain?” and, “Which is the best strain for pain?”, will be answered in great detail. 

Additionally, we will see how medical marijuana compares to over-the-counter and prescription drugs in the treatment of chronic pain.

Contents

Benefits of marijuana for chronic pain

There are many treatment options available for patients suffering from chronic pain in some form. So, what makes marijuana more ideal for chronic pain management compared to other methods?

First, is the most obvious reason, marijuana is very effective for pain relief. Its two main compounds, cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) work differently to relieve various types of pain.

And this is the advantage marijuana has over the bulk, if not all, pain medications; the ability to treat a broad spectrum of pain simultaneously. More details on how these two compounds of cannabis work to treat pain ahead.

Secondly, the side effects of medical marijuana are minimal compared to more conventional medications for pain. For example opioids and NSAIDs. 

Thirdly, not only can marijuana ease different types of pain but also other conditions that may accompany the pain or cause it. 

For example insomnia, fatigue, depression, and anxiety—which are usually the aftermath of chronic pain.

Looking at fatigue and insomnia for instance; patients burdened with chronic pain often experience sleepless nights (insomnia). When the sun finally rises, they aren’t well-rested and feel tired throughout the day (fatigue). Marijuana can fix this by inducing a good night’s rest.

Moreover, illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are often accompanied by chronic pain. No wonder then, that medical marijuana has its place in the treatment of these debilitating conditions.

Finally, and perhaps marijuana’s most defining trait in the treatment of chronic pain is its ability to improve the general well-being of the patient and the quality of their lives. It’s no surprise that patients describe themselves as feeling happier as a result of their marijuana treatment.

With less pain and improved productivity comes the gift of finally living the life you had before the pain began. Or even better, setting out and creating new adventures.

How does marijuana help pain?

Our bodies have a system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which plays a regulatory role. This system is in charge of balancing many processes within the body. 

Among the many balancing roles the ECS is involved in is pain control.

There are two receptors known as cannabinoid receptors which are part of the ECS. They include cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). These two receptors react with chemicals known as cannabinoids to stimulate certain effects,

CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system and affect an individual’s pain experience. Also, these receptors play a role in the signaling of pain to the brain through the spinal cord.

Moreover, CB1 receptors have an effect on emotions, memory, executive functioning, and the brain’s reward system.

The CB1 receptor is also responsible for the psychotropic effects (the high sensation) when it interacts with the chemicals present in cannabis.

CB2 receptors are mainly expressed in the immune tissues. And they play a crucial role in pain through the body’s immune response. 

Marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals with a number of them being cannabinoids. The two most studied cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Marijuana helps treat pain because of how these two cannabinoids interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

THC for pain

THC is thought to reduce pain in two ways.

The first is when THC acts on both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. As a result, the brain’s reward system is activated and so reduces the pain levels.

The second is when THC binds with the cannabinoid receptors which inhibits (blocks) neurons engaged by pain. Therefore reducing pain signaling and perception.

Moreover, this binding with the cannabinoid receptors leads to an elevated state of mind; also known as the high. 

CBD for pain

Cannabidiol (CBD) on the other hand mainly deals with pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

CBD is believed to stimulate an immune response to reduce small proteins that favor inflammation (pro-inflammatory cytokines). 

This anti-inflammatory property may be particularly helpful in treating pain arising from systematic inflammation. For example, chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis.

Also, unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive meaning it doesn’t cause a high.

Best Marijuana for pain

Experts put the number of available marijuana strains well over 700. From an enthusiast’s point of view, this is great news. It could mean testing a different strain every day for 2 years without ever repeating.

However, for medical marijuana patients, this may be a problem when trying to pinpoint the best strain for the condition they seek to get relief from.

Experimenting may be an option, but one bad experience from one strain might ruin their medical marijuana journey.

For patients seeking marijuana for their chronic pain, even choosing between Indica or Sativa may be a challenge in itself.

There are many marijuana strains that provide relief for chronic pain. However, to answer the question, “What is the best marijuana for pain?”

Our pick for ‘best marijuana for chronic pain’ hinges heavily on patient testimonies. And the best marijuana for pain is…drumroll.

The Koolato strain.

We’ll get back to that soon. But first, let’s take a look at the difference between Indica and Sativa.

Indica or Sativa for pain

A marijuana leaf

What is the difference between Sativa and Indica?

Firstly, Indica and Sativa are the species name for the Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa plants.

Secondly, they differ in the kind of ‘highs’ they produce.

For instance, Indica strains produce a ‘body high’. As a result, they tend to be more relaxing and sedating. This strain is recommended for nighttime use after the patient completes all important tasks.

Also, Indica strains make the user feel tired and increase their appetite.

Sativa strains, however, result in a ‘head high’. So, patients feel more energetic, uplifted, more focused, and productive. Many times this characteristic makes Sativa strains suitable for daytime use. 

Additionally, Sativa strains make the user feel extremely happy. However, too much may cause anxiety and paranoia. 

Most strains available in marijuana dispensaries are a cross between these two species of cannabis. These strains go by the term hybrids. This crossbreeding is the cause of the many strains available.

So which is the best for pain, Indica or Sativa?

study published in the Journal of Alternative and Comprehensive Medicine found that participants preferred Indica strains for pain management.

Even better for patients who want to benefit from the pain-relieving effects of Indica minus the lethargic effects have the option of hybrids which combine the best of both worlds (Indica plus Sativa).

Five of the best strains for pain and fatigue

Many times, fatigue is a byproduct of chronic pain.

The strains mentioned below deal with these two problems at the same time. Patients experience relief from their chronic pain and have the energy to carry on with their important daily activities.

The Koolato strain is the best strain for pain

1. Koolato Strain 

The Koolato strain is arguably the best strain for pain.

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid? This hybrid marijuana strain is a cross between the Face on Fire, Girl Scout Cookies, and Gelato #33 strains.

Effects: Effects of the Koolato strain start from the head then spread to all parts of the body. Additionally, the high from Koolato eases away any racing thoughts and replaces them with a sharp sense of mental clarity and focus.

Also, users experience extreme happiness or euphoria followed by a light, tingling sensation all over the body.

Medical value: The Koolato strain excels at easing chronic pain and its calming effects reduce fatigue.

Time to use: This strain is best after a long day at work to relax.

Bonus information: Among cannabis enthusiasts, the strain’s aroma is exceptional.

2. Northern Lights Strain

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid? This is an Indica strain birthed from the Afghani and Thai strains.

Effects: The euphoric effects of this strain spread throughout the body while at the same time relaxing and easing the mind.

Moreover, the Northern Lights Strain has a heavy ‘body high’.

Medical value: The sedative properties of this strain numb the effects of chronic pain spectacularly. 

Also, the strain relaxes the body and users experience great sleep. As a result, it deals with insomnia and fatigue.

Time to use: This strain is best when going to bed for a great night’s sleep.

Bonus information: It’s a very popular strain.

3. Master Kush

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid? This is an Indica strain.

Effects: Users experience full-body relaxation minus the mind-numbing effects of similar strains with the Master Kush strain.

Additionally, patients may feel an increase in creativity and intellectual curiosity.

Medical value: The body numbing high treats chronic pain and it’s good for insomnia, fatigue, and improving appetite.

Time to use: This strain is best for the end of the day.

Bonus information: This strain creeps on users; meaning that it takes a while to feel the high.

4. Blueberry Strain

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid? This is an Indica strain made from crossing the Purple Thai and Thai strains.

Effects: This is a very potent strain whose high lasts significantly longer than other strains (3-4 hours). It is relaxing and gives a feeling of euphoria.

Medical value: Very effective in mitigating short-term pain arising from injuries or surgery; and long-term chronic pain that may arise from illness or nerve damage.

Time to use: Because of its long-lasting high, this strain is best enjoyed at the end of the day.

Bonus information: This strain has a blueberry flavor hence the name.

5. Harlequin Strain

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid? The Harlequin strain is the only Sativa strain that made it on the list.

Effects: Harlequin’s unique composition of high CBD and low THC makes patients relax minus sedation or intoxication.

Medical value: This strain is very effective in treating pain and anxiety where the CBD counteracts the paranoia-inducing effects of THC while amplifying its pain-easing qualities.

Time to use: The strain is perfect for daytime or nighttime use.

Bonus information: Harlequin is perfect for patients who experience paranoia from other strains. Additionally, this strain is in no way related to the Joker’s Harlequin.

How to use medical marijuana for pain relief

Medical cannabis is available in a variety of forms from marijuana dispensaries. How patients decide to take their medicine is usually down to personal preference, the cannabis doctor’s recommendation, or the part of their body affected by the pain.

For dosing, however, it’s important to consider your weight, type of pain, and daily habits. Additionally, consider the THC and CBD ratio. Above all, consult with your doctor for guidance on the proper dosage and strains to subdue your pain.

Below are common methods patients use medical marijuana for pain relief.

Inhalation

This involves burning the flower or cannabis extracts then inhaling. Blunts, pre-rolled joints, or vape cartridges may be the mode of administration.

The effects are usually felt after 2 minutes. And, peak after 30 minutes. So, it’s one of the best methods if you need instant relief. 

Also, vaping causes you to absorb more active compounds of marijuana than smoking a joint.

Ingestion

This is eating or swallowing cannabis in its edible forms.

 Edibles are a common ingestible sold in many marijuana dispensaries in various interesting forms. For example, cannabis gummies, weed cookies, infused chocolate, capsules, and mints. 

But, uptake is slower and less predictable. And, effects can be stronger and longer-lasting than other methods. Not the best option for those seeking immediate relief.

Tinctures

Can be taken through the mouth or at the base of the tongue. They get absorbed into the bloodstream fast. So effects are felt almost immediately. 

Also, tinctures are very easy to measure and dose and are therefore considered the best way for exact dosing.

Topicals

These are best used to reduce localized pain and inflammation. They come in many forms such as creams, lotions, and sprays. 

If you have joint pain, apply the topical to the problematic part for relieving effects. 

Moreover, you won’t get high from using topicals.

Speak to a Cannabis Doctor

Desk of a cannabis doctor with a stethoscope and laptop

Despite recommending the best strains for pain and dosing options for patients; we highly recommend speaking to a cannabis doctor. Why?

To experience the full benefits of marijuana treatment for pain as mentioned earlier, consulting with a qualified cannabis doctor is crucial. Find out how to get prescribed medical marijuana.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, patients can get a cannabis recommendation from a qualified cannabis doctor, then apply for a medical marijuana card to have access to medicinal cannabis.

Many providers offer the service of dishing out cannabis recommendations but only QuickMedCards offers a personalized treatment plan besides the MMJ recommendation.

Our doctors are not only compassionate and professional but also skilled and experienced in using marijuana to effectively treat chronic pain.

Moreover, this service is not provided at an extra cost. Far from that, QuickMedCards consistently offers the lowest price for a medical marijuana card depending on the state you come from. That’s because we believe in putting patients before profit.

Patients from the following states have access to medical marijuana for their chronic pain:

  1. Maine 
  2. New York 
  3. Oklahoma 
  4. Maryland 
  5. Arizona 
  6. Minnesota
  7. Virginia
  8. Pennsylvania
  9. New Mexico 
  10. New Jersey
  11. Missouri
  12. Louisiana
  13. Iowa 
  14. Hawaii
  15. Delaware
  16. Arkansas
  17. Connecticut
  18. Ohio
  19. West Virginia

Each state has a unique process when applying for a medical marijuana card. So, depending on your state we’ve made the application process simple and straightforward.

Most importantly, getting your medical marijuana card has never been easier due to the convenience of telemedicine. What does this mean?

It means that now, instead of making a trip to the doctor’s office as a bundle of nerves, you can comfortably have your appointment and get certified through video call at home.

Patient testimonies on how medical marijuana helped their chronic pain

Unless you’re a professional in the medical field or a biology student, talk about the endocannabinoid system, cannabinoid receptors, and cytokines may do little to convince you that medical marijuana is the right choice for your pain.

The real questions you may have could be, “Will medical marijuana work for my pain?” and more importantly, “Has medical marijuana worked for other people’s pain?”

Here are some accounts from patients we interviewed and asked whether marijuana was beneficial for their chronic pain. Their answers may not only convince you to consider marijuana for your pain but also provide you with some well-needed inspiration.

Christopher

“Marijuana has been extremely beneficial in my case. I was taking 30 milligrams of MS Contin (opioid medication) 3 times a day for over 8 years. And, with my family doctor’s supervision and recommendation, I started using medicinal cannabis for my chronic pain. Soon, I managed to cut my opiate use by two-thirds and 6 months later I got off the morphine completely. 

I’m also Type 2 diabetic, somehow I lost 40 lbs and got my A1C to 6.4. For me, medical marijuana has given me back my life. I’m still in pain nearly 24/7 but I was with the morphine too. With the MMJ it was possible to do things despite the pain whereas with the morphine I was pretty immobile.”

Amanda

“I grew desperate to relieve my pain, which made it impossible to do much of anything. I even struggled with walking, working, and sleeping.

So earlier this spring, I started taking cannabis gummies containing 2 milligrams of medical marijuana between four and five evenings a week, shortly before bed. I live in Massachusetts, where medicinal and recreational cannabis is legal.

The most instant effect I’ve observed since taking medical marijuana is that I sleep much better. Yet, it’s a distinct kind of sleep than I’ve experienced compared to taking something like a muscle relaxant, which tends to knock me out cold and leaves me still feeling dazed and exhausted the next day; even if I sleep for 10 hours non-stop.

My sleeping patterns under the influence of medical weed seem more natural. When I wake up the next day, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated, rather than passive.”

Jessica

“I started using medical marijuana after being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in my late fifties. After diagnosis, if something could go wrong, it usually did. 

I couldn’t take most pain prescriptions (opioids) because of too many bad side effects and allergic reactions. And the standard OTC plus prescription non-opioid medications were ineffective.

Marijuana (flower, smoked) was a life-saver. Smoking pot decreased my pain, my bouts of insomnia, my daily nausea, and basically, helped me feel more normal

I did not feel particularly ‘high’. I felt calmer, less anxious, less depressed, and most importantly, it helped me feel more optimistic. And when you have breast cancer, you need all the help you can to get through such a tough, life-altering time. 

For some of us, the after-effects of breast cancer treatment continue after treatment. Life is still quite difficult for me on every level because of what didn’t go right or created other health issues.

Since then, I have tried pot-based salves, gels, roll-ons, oils, butter, edibles, vapes, pipes/water pipes, and even CBD suppositories recently for wicked back pain (it beats another surgery). And more flower! Love me some good flower. And no constipation like with opioids, no stomach damage, no threat of fatal addiction, no vomiting, etc. I am so happy that I tried pot and it works for me.”

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is pain that persists well beyond the normal recovery period and is usually a symptom of an underlying health condition. So, in simple terms, it’s pain that continues over a long time. This may be weeks, months, or years. 

Sometimes this pain is felt in episodes or could be persistent. Because of the unrelenting nature of chronic pain, those affected often experience a cutback in the quality of their lives.

Causes of chronic pain

There are many reasons for chronic pain. For instance, lifestyle habits, traumatic injury, or illness. Some types of chronic pain may be a combination of several factors at the same time. 

For example, lower back pain may result from poor posture, being overweight, or an underlying medical condition, all at the same time. 

Regardless of the origin, medical marijuana is an effective treatment when it comes to diminishing severe pain. But, before we dive into the specifics let’s take a look at the main causes.

Physical injury

Physical injury often happens after an accident, like when you sprain a muscle or it can result from overexertion. 

In many instances, chronic pain develops when there is significant damage to the nerves. So, even after the physical injury heals, you may continue to experience that pain. Owing to the extent of the damage, the nerves continue to send pain signals to the brain long after the physical recovery. 

The solution? Using pain medication that suppresses these pain receptors and stops them from sending these signals, and of course plenty of rest.

Chronic illness

Medical conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer can cause long-lasting severe pain. 

In the case of cancer, for example, chemotherapy treatment causes patients to experience awful side effects. Among them, chronic pain. 

What makes things worse is that sometimes patients choose to stop their treatment altogether when the pain becomes unbearable. The consequence of that decision is often fatal, however. 

The good news is that medical marijuana can be used in sync with their therapy to reduce the side effects of the medication and disease.

Types of chronic pain

There are many different types of chronic pain. For instance:

  • Neuropathic pain
  • Post-surgical pain
  • Migraines
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Cancer pain
  • Arthritis pain
  • Chronic lower back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Severe neck pain
  • Chronic Knee pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Menstrual pain

For now, we will take a look at chronic lower back pain and sciatica. 

Chronic lower back pain

A lady experiencing chronic lower back pain

Chronic lower back pain occurs as a stabbing sensation or a dull ache in the lower back region and lasts for more than 3 months.

If your question is, “Can you get a medical card for chronic back pain?” Then the answer is a resounding YES!

According to Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, 16 million adults in the U.S. experience chronic back pain. That is a staggering 8% of adults in the country plagued with a persistent aching back.

Additionally, chronic back pain is an expensive condition. Health care costs plus indirect costs due to back pain top $12 billion a year.

Moreover, patients experiencing back pain are severely limited in both their personal and work lives.

All these factors put together qualify patients suffering from back pain for medical cannabis.

Common causes of lower back pain

Job: If your job involves heavy lifting or pushing. Then, you are at risk of developing lower back pain since there is a lot of pressure on your spine. However, people who work on their desks may also develop lower back pain if they sit long hours without proper lumbar support and they begin to slouch.

Bags: Perhaps the most unlikely reason for lower back pain since most people carry their bags over their shoulders. Even so, the upper body is supported by your lower back. Therefore carrying a heavy bag may increase the pressure on your spine, especially if you carry it on one shoulder. Eventually, this may cause lower back pain.

Posture: Don’t slouch! It’s that easy. Having good lumbar support when seated is essential to have a great posture and prevent back pain.

Intense workouts: Overdoing it in the gym or during sports activities will cause unnecessary back pain. Especially after long periods of inactivity. So it’s best to take it easy in the gym as you gradually get stronger before doing more intense workouts.

Herniated disks: The intervertebral discs between your spine may rupture or bulge due to aging or injury. Thus, causing a lot of pressure on your spinal nerve roots. This is a source of intense pain and treatment is required to alleviate it.

Chronic medical conditions: Several serious medical conditions may inflame your spinal nerves causing intense pain. For example, fibromyalgia, spinal stenosis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

The best marijuana for back pain

The Northern Lights strain with its heavy ‘body high’ is the best marijuana for even the most distressing forms of back pain.

Sciatica

Drawing of the spine showing sciatica

Sciatica occurs when a herniated disc applies pressure on the sciatic nerve. The pain usually starts from your lower back, then through your bum, and finally down to the back of your leg. The pain is often felt on one side of the body.

Common causes of Sciatica

Age: As we age, changes in the spine such as herniated disks and bone spurs may cause sciatica.

Obesity: Excess body weight causes a lot of pressure on your lower back. As a result, the ‘cushions’ between your vertebrae bulge or break. Consequently, applying pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Sedentary lifestyle: Inactivity or sitting for long periods also increases the chances of developing sciatica since improper form or posture leads to tension in your back.

Occupation: Jobs involving a lot of heavy lifting tend to cause a lot of strain on your back. Furthermore, driving over long periods may also be a risk factor. However, there is no conclusive evidence of this.

Diabetes: People with diabetes are exposed to significant nerve damage.

Severe injury from an accident: An accident may cause damage to your spine and the injury may touch on the sciatic nerve.

The best strain for sciatica

The Blueberry strain excels in mitigating sciatica because of its exceptional quality of dealing with chronic pain arising from nerve damage.

The effects of chronic pain on your mental health

Enduring chronic pain is not only a physical problem but also a psychological burden. In truth, battling constant pain can take a toll on your mental health. 

Additionally, your family is often concerned about you and feel helpless because they can’t make you feel better

With all these new problems cropping up, patients may experience:

Depression

Persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest, and low self-esteem are common when you’re dealing with chronic pain. Additionally, pain may make you withdraw from your usual activities. Consequently, bringing feelings of loneliness.

Anxiety

Anxiety can crop up when you’re in constant worry about your persistent aches and a possible serious medical condition. Furthermore, you become fearful and are always thinking of possible scenarios ahead (often bad ones).

Insomnia

The constant pain or the unwanted side effects of prescription drugs may keep you up at night. Given that sleep is essential for health and prosperity, the right medication should not only support one part of your life while taking away the other. Instead, the right medication should provide balance and relief.

Irritability

Chronic pain may make you more irritable and frustrated. Moreover, you might find yourself even more resentful if you’re dealing with chronic pain and other serious medical conditions at the same time.

Drug dependence

Opioids are common drugs prescribed for chronic pain. But, the more you use them for pain relief, the more you build a tolerance for the drug. As a result, you end up taking more of these drugs to get the same effect. And, over time, this may snowball into a full-blown addiction. Alarmingly, the CDC reports that fatal overdoses from prescription opioids have increased by more than 4 times from 1999 to 2019.

Fatigue

Dealing with severe and persistent pain takes up a lot of physical and mental effort. As a result, you are left fatigued. Furthermore, severe medical conditions and prescription drugs may also bring about fatigue.

Decreased appetite

Chronic pain accompanied by depression and anxiety often makes you lose your appetite due to stress. Furthermore, some painkillers may cause nausea and reduced appetite.

Conventional treatment options for chronic pain

Conventional methods of treatment for chronic pain include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Surgery
  • Pain clinics and centers
  • Medication (Over-the-counter medication and prescription medication.)

We will take a closer look at the medication taken for chronic pain and later see why marijuana has an upper hand over both OTC and prescription pain medications.

otc and prescription medication for chronic pain

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs for chronic pain

Over-the-counter drugs for pain or painkillers, include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin, and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). 

Both acetaminophen and NSAIDs mitigate pain caused by muscle aches and stiffness. 

NSAIDs reduce pain by limiting the production of prostaglandins which are substances in our bodies that cause pain while acetaminophens work on the part of the brain that receives pain messages.

There are also topical pain relievers that are applied to sore muscles which are available as OTC drugs. 

They come in various forms such as lotions, creams, and sprays. Examples of topical pain relievers include Capzasin-P, Aspercreme, and BenGay.

Prescription drugs for chronic pain

Prescription pain medications include corticosteroids, opioids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, some NSAIDs, and lidocaine patches.

Corticosteroids reduce inflammation to relieve pain. Often, they are given in pill form or injections that target the affected joint. Mostly when treating arthritis.

Nonetheless, corticosteroids have serious side effects. For instance: 

  • Weight gain and salt retention
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Mood changes
  • Insomnia 
  • Weakened immunity 
  • Thinning of bones and skin
  •  High blood sugar 

To reduce these risks, they are prescribed in the lowest dose possible and for a short time.

Opioids are narcotic prescriptions. Some examples of pain-relieving opioids include morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, and codeine. 

Unlike corticosteroids, opioids don’t cause stomach bleeding. Even so, they can be extremely addictive and fatal in the event of an overdose. Especially when used to treat chronic pain.

Common reactions to opioid use include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Itching 
  • Breathing problems
  • Addiction

Antidepressants are used to treat pain and emotional conditions by adjusting the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. 

Some antidepressants (tricyclics) are especially effective for treating neuropathic pain. 

Chronic pain conditions treated by low-dose antidepressants include migraines and menstrual pain.

Patients taking antidepressants might experience: 

  • Blurry vision
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Nausea

Anticonvulsants are usually used to treat seizures. But, they can also be used as pain medication. 

The specific way these drugs relieve pain is unclear but it’s assumed that they diminish the response of nerves responsible for pain. Examples of anticonvulsants include gabapentin and pregabalin. 

Common side effects include: 

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

Medical marijuana vs OTC and prescription drugs for pain

To clarify, medical marijuana does have side effects. Even so, compared to pain medication, marijuana’s side effects are milder and more tolerable.

Patients using medical marijuana for their pain may experience:

  • Dry mouth (cottonmouth)
  • Red eyes
  • Paranoia
  • Increased appetite (the munchies)
  • Depression
  • Hallucination

Side effects such as paranoia are avoidable with a lower dose of marijuana or taking a strain with lower THC.

The graphic below shows how medical marijuana trumps both OTC and prescription medication when treating pain.

medical marijuana vs otc medication ,opioids, corticosteroids, and NSAIDs
Medical marijuana vs OTC and prescription medications for pain

Key takeaways

  • Medical marijuana is not only beneficial for pain but also responsible for an improvement in the general well-being of patients’ lives.
  • Indica strains are preferred for pain.
  • Patients find the Koolato strain the best marijuana strain for pain and fatigue.
  • Patients can get a medical card for chronic lower back pain.
  • To receive the extensive benefits of medical marijuana, patients should speak to a cannabis doctor.
  • Medical marijuana does have side effects but they are more tolerable and minimal compared to those of conventional pain medication.