Marijuana: You Don’t Have to Smoke It Or Get High To Get Pain Relief

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The underside of a marijuana plant's leaves in a grow room.

Mention marijuana to many pain patients and they think of unwashed criminals furtively sharing a joint or potheads staying high all day, having lost their motivation and their minds. “Not for me”, they say, “I’ll stick with my pills.”  But this image that these individuals have does not represent the real world of medical marijuana.

Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam have all legalized medical marijuana, though laws vary significantly in terms of ease of access, products available and whether patients can grow their own. Many other states are considering legalization. (A good source of information on legal status in each state is

Medical marijuana differs from illicit marijuana in many ways. One of the most significant differences is that street marijuana has been bred for its psychoactive effects—the goal of users is to get high. So street marijuana has high concentrations of THC, the compound in marijuana that is stimulating and causes euphoria. In some people high THC triggers anxiety, or, in worst case scenarios, psychosis in vulnerable individuals. Medical marijuana has been bred to have high CBD levels and low THC levels. CBD does not induce a high and is responsible for marijuana’s relaxation, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects. In addition, medical marijuana is a regulated product that must meet standards for purity so you can trust that it is not contaminated with other drugs.

In addition, medical marijuana comes in many forms. In some states, smoking of the leaves is allowed, but more popular is vaping, where the marijuana or oils derived from marijuana are heated enough in a special device called a vaporizer to release the medicinal vapors but not heated enough to burn the leaves. This allows for a very quick effect from inhalation while avoiding the hazards associated with combusting irritants.

Another popular method of dosing with medical marijuana is orally using edibles, sometimes referred to as medibles. Baked goods, candies, oils and even chewing gum are available in some states for discrete dosing. Marijuana taken orally takes longer to have an effect but the effects are longer lasting than when inhaled. Also, inhaled marijuana goes quickly to the lungs and brain, while ingested marijuana is absorbed more slowly and has a more systemic effect.

Medical marijuana is also available in topical preparations such as oils and in patches, where it can get absorbed into the body through the skin for local and systemic effects. Topical preparations might be more suitable if the pain is localized, as it can be directly applied to the area of concern.

Marijuana, in thousands of years of medicinal and recreational use, has never been associated with any fatalities, making it safer than any other prescription drug, including opioids. Patient reports also indicate that it provides more pain relief, on average, than opioids. Many who’ve switched report more ability to function and a better quality of life.

For those who are in a state where medical marijuana is not legal, there is CBD oil derived from hemp, which is legal in all 50 states. Many pain patients report getting significant relief from using CBD oil. The best choice is a CBD oil that is from organic hemp grown in the United States and tested for purity. One product I recommend is Nuleaf Naturals CBD Oil. CBD oil is also available in edibles.

You might have to experiment a little with dosages, strains and methods of administration, but medical marijuana is definitely worth a try if you are in pain.

For more information and resources for safe and effective pain relief, visit the Alternative Pain Treatment Directory

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