Opioids or Cannabis for Nerve Pain? - RxLeaf
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Opioids or Cannabis for Nerve Pain?

Emily Robertson

Opioids are the traditional ‘go-to’ for hard-to-treat nerve pain, but cannabis might be better suited for the position.

A growing body of research suggests that we have a superhero on the front lines of the battle against the opioid epidemic: cannabis. It appears cannabis has a beneficial function for relieving nerve pain, offering a solution to the tidal wave of opioids prescribed to ‘fix’ nerve pain. And this is no small discovery. Opioids have numerous downsides, including harmful side effects, expense, and, of course, their incredibly addictive nature.

Hand clutching heel showing nerve pain animation

There are a few great reasons to consider cannabis for nerve pain, not the least of these is that many patients report that cannabis is more effective. Cannabinoids reach straight into the root of the problem and attempt to stop it from there, rather than covering over the pain response.

According to the infamous US Patent 6630507, cannabinoids are also highly effective neuroprotectants. Studies show that they can not only lessen neurological damage from catastrophic medical events like brain trauma and strokes, but may also help restore cognitive function. Research has shown that THC can break down amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s patients and prevent the worsening of neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. This translates to protection and restoration for all nerve cells.

Man grasping painful shoulder showing nerve inflammation

Cannabis Signals The Endocannabinoid System

One of the reasons that cannabis is so effective is that it signals receptors in the endocannabinoid system. This system runs through your body, interacting with all body systems, including the brain and nervous system. It maintains critical functions for health and homeostasis. Cannabinoids act as the keys to the ‘locks’ in the receptors to encourage desired reactions. For instance, they can trigger pain-relieving responses that allow the body’s experience of pain to significantly decrease or disappear.

But, because cannabinoids also directly communicate with the causes of pain, and protect your brain from neurological damage, they’re fighting the problem at the root. In other words, you may be treating the cause as well as the symptoms.

Woman with hand neuropathy

Cannabis Helps Neuropathy Patients Get Better Sleep

In 2010, 2013, and 2015, separate small studies found that low doses of vaporized cannabis can help to reduce neuropathy. But, they also found that it helped to improve sleep.

One of the factors of nerve pain and neurological damage is that it can prevent sufferers from having a good night’s sleep. That starts a downward spiral of exhaustion and poor cognitive functioning that only increases pain perception. Sleep is crucial for your body to heal and to fight off pain. Lack of sleep does far more damage than you may realize, but in the culture we live in, sleep is often undervalued.

Neuropathy Graphic

Cannabis is Cheaper and Less Dangerous Than Opioids

Simply put, opioids are causing a crisis that is spiralling out of control. The CDC reports that 91 American die every single day from opioid overdose. On the other end of the spectrum, due to the clamp down on opioids, patients that need them are being denied by pain clinics.

Opioids are highly addictive, and the key trouble is that tolerance does not match treatment. While you can build a tolerance to the psychoactive effects of cannabis, your therapeutic dose remains the same. The same can’t be said of opioids, for which you will require an ever increasing dosage until you reach the maximum dose allowed. Then what?

Opioid Prescription Bottles

From a cost standpoint, opioids are definitely more expensive. Whether you’re paying through insurance or out of pocket, someone is going to have to foot the bill for a pricey prescription that will increase over time.  Cannabis is far cheaper and, for nerve damage and pain, it reports to be more effective.

So, effective in fighting the root cause of pain, improves quality of life, and safer than opioids. What better reasons could you need to switch to cannabis for nerve pain?

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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