Medical Marijuana Helps People Manage Neuropathy Pain

Peripheral neuropathy, a frequent complication of diabetes, occurs when gradual nerve damage causes numbness, weakness, burning, or pain—typically in the feet, legs, or hands.

Now, many people are turning to cannabis, or medical marijuana for relief from persistent neuropathy discomfort.

Pain Relief

Cannabis is effective for neuropathy because there are cannabinoid receptors on certain cells in our brain and throughout our central and peripheral nervous systems. These receptors are involved in a variety of functions including sleep, appetite, mood, and pain sensation.

A couple compounds in cannabis, THC and CBD, activate two primary cannabinoid receptors called CB1 and CB2. Their activation in the brain, nervous system, and peripheral organs and tissues help the body manage nerve pain.

Unlike opioids that are sometimes prescribed for chronic neuropathy discomfort, cannabis has negligible side effects, and carries minimal risk for physical addiction. That’s why researchers have started studying the effects of medical marijuana for neuropathy symptoms.

Encouraging Research

The outcomes of studies using cannabis for neuropathy have been encouraging, for instance:

  • A review of 13 randomized placebo-controlled studies for the treatment of neuropathy indicated that cannabinoids may provide effective relief from chronic neuropathic pain conditions that are non-responsive to other treatments.
  • A small study showed that patients with neuropathic pain experienced reduced pain intensity and better sleep by inhaling herbal cannabis (25 mg of 9.4% tetrahydrocannabinol) three times per day for five days.
  • Other researchers found that inhaling low doses of vaporized cannabis (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol 1.29%) effectively reduced neuropathy pain that was unrelieved by conventional treatments—and did not compromise the study participants' daily functioning.

In their reports some researchers point out the need for larger, high-quality studies concerning cannabis use for neuropathy. However, many people already using medical marijuana for peripheral nerve pain report enjoying good results.

A Complicated Business

As of last July, medical marijuana was legal in 29 states, including eight where recreational use is allowed as well. Even so, the federal government still classifies cannabis as a highly addictive, and medically useless Schedule I drug.

The Schedule I classification complicates the medical marijuana industry. Medical marijuana companies cannot, for example, utilize federal banking services, they sometimes have trouble getting insured, and may face tax penalties. Federal employees, people working in federally regulated fields, and those receiving federal housing assistance are not allowed cannabis use for any reason.

Still, as more people become aware of the medical benefits provided by cannabis, the push to legalize medical marijuana continues—and several more states have legislation pending.

State by State

Each state with legalized medical marijuana has their own set of rules and procedures. Some have approved cannabis use specifically for neuropathy relief, others okay it for debilitating conditions, or intractable pain. Cannabis use may be “subject to approval,” or require the recommendation of a physician.

If you know your state allows medical marijuana, you can learn what conditions it’s approved for by doing an Internet search for “(your state) medical marijuana law,” or check the state information page on the NORML website (link below). To find out if your state has legalized medical marijuana use an Internet search such as “(your state) marijuana law.”

Sources: Medical Marijuana Inc; CannaHealth; State Medical Marijuana Information/NORML; Research Gate; NCBI; Science Direct
Photo credit: Dank Depot

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