Chronic Pain and Cannabis: Research Finds it May Help Some People Cut Down on Opioids

Chronic pain affects millions of people worldwide, and opioids have long been one of the primary treatments used to manage this condition. However, with the opioid epidemic on the rise, doctors are exploring alternative options for pain management. One alternative that has gained popularity in recent years is cannabis.

Research into the use of cannabis for chronic pain management has revealed some promising results. In some cases, patients who use cannabis have been able to reduce or eliminate their reliance on opioids. This has led to increased interest and further investigation into the topic.

While using cannabis for pain management is not without its challenges, such as potential side effects and finding the appropriate dosage, its potential to reduce opioid use and addiction makes it an important avenue of exploration for doctors and researchers alike.

“There is a growing body of evidence that cannabis may be a safe and effective alternative to opioids for many types of chronic pain,” says Dr. Michael Hart, a pain management specialist and researcher. “It’s important that we continue to explore this option and determine how it may fit into our overall approach to chronic pain management.”

As more research is conducted on the potential benefits and drawbacks of using cannabis for chronic pain management, it will be interesting to see how it evolves as a treatment option in the medical world.

Current Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis is a public health emergency that has affected millions of people in the United States. It is a complex problem that has evolved over the last three decades. In the 1990s, there was a push to treat pain more aggressively, which led to an increase in opioid prescriptions. However, opioids are highly addictive, and many people developed a dependency on these drugs. This, in turn, led to an increase in overdose deaths.

Rates of Opioid Overdose Deaths

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were over 47,000 opioid overdose deaths in the United States in 2017. This is a staggering number and highlights the need for action to be taken to address this crisis. The opioid epidemic has affected people from all walks of life and has impacted families, communities, and society as a whole.

Causes of the Opioid Crisis

There are many factors that have contributed to the opioid crisis. One of the major reasons for the epidemic is the over-prescription of opioids for pain management. Another factor is the availability of potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The rise of heroin use has also played a significant role in the epidemic. Prescriptions for opioids have decreased in recent years, but there is still much work to be done to address the crisis and ensure that people receive appropriate pain management while minimizing the risks of addiction and overdose.

Addressing the Opioid Crisis

Addressing the opioid crisis requires a multifaceted approach. This may include policy changes that limit the number of opioid prescriptions, increases in addiction treatment resources, and greater access to non-opioid pain management options. Additionally, research has shown that medical marijuana may be a useful tool in helping people manage pain without the need for opioids. It is important to continue to explore alternative pain management options and work together to find solutions to this public health emergency.

Cannabis as an Alternative Treatment

Cannabis as an Alternative Treatment


Chronic pain is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people around the world. Many of those suffering from chronic pain rely on opioids as a form of treatment, but these drugs come with a host of dangerous side effects, including addiction and overdose. Cannabis has been gaining attention in recent years as an alternative treatment to opioids for chronic pain.

The Science Behind Cannabis for Pain Relief

Studies suggest that cannabis may be effective for pain relief due to its interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system helps regulate pain levels, and cannabis may enhance its function. Additionally, some research has found that cannabis may help reduce inflammation, another key contributor to chronic pain.

Benefits of Cannabis over Opioids

Unlike opioids, cannabis is not addictive and does not carry the risk of overdose. Additionally, cannabis may provide pain relief without the negative side effects that come with opioids, such as constipation and respiratory depression. Some patients may also find that cannabis provides better pain relief than opioids.

Challenges of Cannabis as a Treatment

While cannabis may hold promise as an alternative to opioids for chronic pain, there are still a number of challenges to overcome. One of the biggest challenges is the legal status of cannabis, which is still illegal in many parts of the world. Additionally, more research is needed to better understand how cannabis can be used most effectively for pain relief, including dosages and delivery methods.


Overall, cannabis shows potential as an alternative treatment for chronic pain that may provide relief without the negative side effects associated with opioids. While there are still challenges to overcome, the growing body of research suggests that cannabis should be further explored as a treatment option for those suffering from chronic pain.

Cannabis and Pain Management


Chronic pain affects millions of people worldwide and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Prescription opioids are commonly used to manage chronic pain, but they come with a risk of addiction and other negative side effects. As a result, many people have turned to cannabis as an alternative pain management option.

How Cannabis Helps with Pain

Cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids, which interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a crucial role in regulating pain, among other things. When cannabinoids bind to the ECS, it can reduce inflammation and help relieve pain.

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Research has also shown that THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, can activate the same pain-relieving pathways in the body as opioids. However, THC does not come with the same risk of addiction as opioids do.

Evidence for Cannabis as a Pain Management Option

A growing body of evidence suggests that cannabis may be effective in reducing chronic pain. One review of 28 randomized clinical trials found that cannabis was associated with a significant reduction in pain compared to a placebo. Another study found that cannabis use was associated with a 64% reduction in opioid use in patients with chronic pain.

However, it is important to note that while cannabis may be effective for pain management in some individuals, it may not work for everyone. It is also not a cure for the underlying condition causing the pain.

Potential Side Effects and Risks

Cannabis use can have some potential side effects, including dizziness, dry mouth, and impaired cognitive function. It can also lead to dependency and addiction, although the risk is lower than with opioids.

Additionally, the quality and dosage of cannabis products can vary widely, which can make it challenging to obtain a consistent effect. It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before using cannabis for pain management, as they can help identify any potential risks and work with the individual to find the best treatment plan.


Cannabis may be a viable alternative to opioids for chronic pain management. While there is still much to be learned about the efficacy and safety of cannabis in pain management, the growing body of research suggests that it could be a valuable treatment option. However, it is important to approach cannabis use with caution and work with a healthcare provider to find the best treatment plan for each individual’s needs.

Common Strains used for Pain Relief


ACDC is a predominantly CBD strain that has a reputation for providing powerful pain relief without the psychoactive effects of THC. This strain is known for its calming and relaxing effects, making it an excellent choice for those dealing with chronic pain and anxiety.

2. Blue Dream

Blue Dream is a hybrid strain that offers a balance of both indica and sativa effects. It has a reputation for providing pain relief while maintaining an energizing and uplifting quality. This strain is commonly used by those dealing with chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.

3. Harlequin

Harlequin is another CBD-rich strain that has a reputation for providing relief from chronic pain. This strain has a high level of CBD and a low level of THC, making it ideal for those who don’t want to experience the psychoactive effects of THC.

4. Purple Kush

Purple Kush is an indica strain that is known for its relaxing and sedative effects, making it an excellent choice for those dealing with chronic pain and insomnia. This strain is also known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, which can exacerbate symptoms of chronic pain.

5. Sour Diesel

Sour Diesel is a sativa strain that is known for providing pain relief while maintaining an energizing and uplifting quality. This strain is commonly used by those dealing with chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.

It’s important to note that everyone’s experience with cannabis strains can be different. It’s best to consult with a healthcare professional who is knowledgeable about cannabis and how it may interact with any medications you may be taking.

Different Forms of Cannabis Administration

Skin and Muscle Application

Cannabis can be applied topically onto the skin or on sore muscles. Topical application has become more popular because cannabis does not produce psychoactive effects when administered this way. Topical creams or oils containing cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis, offer relief from pain and inflammation, making it a useful treatment for arthritis, back pain, and muscle spasms.


Inhalation is one of the most common forms of cannabis administration. It involves smoking or vaporizing cannabis flowers or extracts. When inhaled, the active compounds in cannabis directly enter the bloodstream through the lungs, providing quick-acting effects. Smoking cannabis involves inhaling combusted plant material, while vaporizing involves heating the plant material to a temperature that releases the active compounds in the form of vapor. Inhalation is commonly used to treat chronic pain and is particularly effective for neuropathic pain.

Oral Consumption

Oral consumption of cannabis involves consuming edibles, beverages, and capsules containing cannabis. Edibles are food products, such as brownies and gummies, infused with cannabis extracts. Beverages, such as teas and sodas, infused with cannabis can provide a more subtle and longer-lasting effect than smoking or vaping. Cannabis capsules containing THC or CBD oil is another form of oral administration. Oral consumption of cannabis takes longer to take effect compared to inhalation, but it can provide longer-lasting effects.

Sublingual Administration

Sublingual administration involves placing a few drops of cannabis oil under the tongue. This method allows the active compounds to be absorbed through the mucous membranes under the tongue. Sublingual cannabis administration is preferred by patients who cannot tolerate inhalation or prefer the effects to last longer than oral consumption. It is also a preferred method of administration for those who require more precise dosing.

Rectal Administration

Rectal administration, or suppositories, are a less conventional method of cannabis administration but provide an efficient way of delivering cannabinoids. Rectal administration involves inserting a cannabis-infused suppository into the rectum where it can be quickly absorbed. This method is useful for patients who cannot tolerate inhalation, oral consumption, or sublingual administration. Rectal administration is particularly effective for patients with lower gastrointestinal issues, such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome, where systemic absorption may be impaired.

Possible Negative Side Effects

Psychological Effects

While cannabis may help with chronic pain and reduce the need for opioids, it can cause psychological side effects in some patients. These include anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. The psychoactive compound in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can cause these negative effects when taken in large doses or if the patient is sensitive to it.

Respiratory Problems

Smoking cannabis can cause respiratory problems, including chronic bronchitis and lung infections. This is because smoking any substance can irritate the lungs and cause inflammation. Patients may want to consider alternative methods of consumption, such as edibles or vaporizers, to reduce the risk of respiratory problems.

Interactions with Other Medications

Cannabis may interact with other medications, including opioids, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. Patients should consult with their doctor to make sure that using cannabis to manage chronic pain is safe and does not interfere with other medications they may be taking.

Impaired Driving

Cannabis use can impair motor skills and reaction time, which can be dangerous when driving. Patients should refrain from driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence of cannabis.

Dependency and Addiction

While cannabis is not as addictive as opioids, it can still cause dependency and addiction in some patients. Patients should use cannabis responsibly and follow their doctor’s recommendations to avoid developing an addiction.

Table of Possible Negative Side Effects

Side Effect Description
Psychological Effects Anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations caused by large doses or sensitivity to THC.
Respiratory Problems Chronic bronchitis and lung infections caused by smoking.
Interactions with Other Medications Cannabis may interact with opioids, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.
Impaired Driving Cannabis use can impair driving and reaction time, making it dangerous to drive.
Dependency and Addiction Cannabis can cause dependency and addiction in some patients.
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Potential Dependence on Cannabis

Understanding Cannabis Dependence

Cannabis dependence is a complex and controversial issue that has been studied extensively. It is recognized as a mental health disorder that involves compulsive drug-seeking behavior despite the negative consequences that result from its use.

Contrary to popular belief, cannabis can be addictive and lead to dependence. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 9% of people who use cannabis will become dependent on it.

Risk Factors for Cannabis Dependence

There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing cannabis dependence. These include genetics, early use of cannabis during adolescence, using high-potency cannabis, and using cannabis frequently.

Additionally, individuals with a history of substance use disorders, mental health disorders, or traumatic experiences may also be at an increased risk for cannabis dependence.

Preventing Cannabis Dependence

Preventing cannabis dependence involves education about the risks associated with cannabis use and early intervention strategies. Awareness campaigns can help raise awareness about the potential risks and encourage responsible use.

Other strategies include limiting access to cannabis and encouraging individuals to seek treatment for any mental health or substance use disorders that can increase the likelihood of developing dependence.

It is important to note that while cannabis may have potential benefits for managing chronic pain and reducing opioid use, it is not without risks. Individuals considering cannabis use should consult with their healthcare provider to determine if it is an appropriate treatment option for them.

Medical Experts Support for Cannabis Use

Medical Conditions

Many medical experts believe that cannabis use can be beneficial for patients with certain medical conditions, particularly chronic pain. Studies have shown that cannabis can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in the body, making it a potential alternative to opioids and other painkillers.

Minimal Side Effects

Another reason why medical experts support cannabis use is that it has minimal side effects compared to many prescription medications. Opioids, for example, can cause dizziness, constipation, and even addiction, while cannabis is known to have fewer and less severe side effects.

Alternative to Prescription Medications

Medical experts also believe that cannabis can be a viable alternative to prescription medications for patients who don’t want to take standard medications or who haven’t found them effective. Cannabis can be used in a variety of forms, from edibles to oils to smoking, making it a versatile treatment option for many patients.

Caution Necessary

However, medical experts caution that cannabis use should be approached carefully and only under the guidance of a physician. Patients should be aware of the potential risks and side effects of cannabis use and communicate openly with their doctors about any concerns or questions they may have.


Overall, medical experts support cannabis use for its potential to help treat a variety of medical conditions, including chronic pain, while minimizing side effects and providing an alternative to prescription medications. However, caution and medical supervision are necessary to ensure safe and effective use of cannabis as a treatment option.

Legal Concerns with Cannabis Use

Federal Laws and Regulations

Although several states have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. This can affect patients who rely on medical cannabis, as doctors are not legally allowed to prescribe it, and insurance companies are not required to cover the cost of medical cannabis. Additionally, federal law prohibits the transportation of cannabis across state lines, making it difficult for patients to access medical cannabis if they live in a state where it is not legal.

Employment and Drug Testing

Legal cannabis use can also present challenges for individuals in the workforce. Even if cannabis is legal in their state, employers may still prohibit its use, and drug testing policies may not differentiate between recreational and medical use. This means that individuals could potentially lose their job or face other consequences if they test positive for cannabis use, even if they are using it to manage chronic pain or another medical condition.

Child Custody and Visitation

Parents who use cannabis, whether for medical or recreational purposes, may also face legal challenges when it comes to child custody and visitation. In some cases, cannabis use has been used as grounds to limit or deny a parent’s custody or visitation rights. This can be especially problematic for parents who use cannabis for medical reasons, as they may be forced to choose between managing their pain and seeing their children.

  • Overall, legal concerns with cannabis use are complex and can vary depending on the individual’s circumstances and location.

Limitations in Researching Cannabis

Limited Legalization

One major limitation to researching cannabis is the fact that it remains illegal under federal law in the United States, despite being legal for medical or recreational use in many individual states. This makes it difficult for researchers to obtain the necessary funding and permits to conduct large-scale studies into the effects of cannabis on chronic pain and other conditions.

Lack of Standardization

Another challenge is the lack of standardization in cannabis products. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which are tightly regulated and undergo extensive testing before being approved for use, cannabis is not subject to the same level of scrutiny. This means that different strains of cannabis may have vastly different chemical profiles, making it difficult to compare studies or draw firm conclusions about its effectiveness.

Limited Sample Sizes

Additionally, many studies into cannabis and chronic pain have been limited in their sample sizes. This can make it difficult to generalize findings to larger populations, especially when considering the various factors that can influence a patient’s response to cannabis, such as dosage, frequency of use, and individual physiology.

Bias and Confounding Factors

Finally, many studies into cannabis and chronic pain may be subject to bias or confounding factors, such as participants self-selecting for the study or using other pain relief methods in addition to cannabis. This can make it difficult to isolate the effects of cannabis on pain and may lead to misleading or inconclusive results.

Despite these limitations, research into cannabis and chronic pain continues to advance, and many patients have reported positive outcomes from using cannabis to manage their pain. As more research is conducted and regulations around cannabis are developed and standardized, we may gain a better understanding of its potential benefits and limitations as a pain management tool.

Medical Cannabis Regulations in the US


Medical cannabis has been legalized in over 30 states in the US, as well as in Washington, D.C. Each state has its own set of regulations governing the use, possession, and distribution of medical cannabis.

Requirements for Patients

To obtain medical cannabis legally, patients must first qualify for a medical card, which requires a diagnosis of one or more qualifying medical conditions. Qualifying conditions vary from state to state, but may include chronic pain, cancer, PTSD, and epilepsy.

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Patient cards are usually issued by the state’s department of health, and must be renewed periodically. Patients must also purchase medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries, which may require additional documentation, such as a recommendation from a licensed healthcare provider.

Regulations for Dispensaries

Dispensaries must obtain a license from the state in which they operate. The license may require specific security measures, such as on-site security personnel, surveillance cameras, and alarm systems.

Dispensaries are also subject to strict inventory controls, and must test their products for potency and contaminants. They may also be required to provide education and training to patients and employees.

Requirements for Dispensaries Examples of Regulations
Security measures Surveillance cameras, alarm systems, on-site security personnel
Inventory controls Tracking and reporting of all medical cannabis products
Testing requirements Potency and contaminant testing for all medical cannabis products

Impact of Federal Laws

Despite the legalization of medical cannabis in many states, it remains illegal under federal law. This conflicting legal landscape has created a number of challenges for patients, providers, and dispensary owners. For example, banks may be hesitant to provide services to dispensaries due to the risk of federal prosecution.

In addition, the US government currently classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which means that it is considered to have no medically accepted use. This classification has limited research into the potential benefits of medical cannabis, and many patients may have difficulty obtaining insurance coverage for their medical cannabis purchases.


Despite the challenges posed by conflicting state and federal laws, the legalization of medical cannabis has had a positive impact on many patients. By regulating the production, distribution, and sale of medical cannabis, states can ensure that patients have safe and legal access to this potentially life-changing treatment option.

Patient Success Stories with Cannabis

Reduced Pain and Improved Quality of Life

Sharon, a 56-year-old woman suffering from chronic back pain, had been taking opioids for years before she decided to try cannabis. She started using a high-CBD strain of cannabis and within weeks, noticed a significant reduction in her pain levels. She was able to cut down her opioid use and improve her quality of life overall.

Improved Sleep and Anxiety

John, a 34-year-old man with PTSD, struggled with sleep and anxiety issues that affected his daily life. After trying various medications and therapies with little success, he turned to cannabis. He found that using a combination of CBD and THC strains helped him sleep better and manage his anxiety levels.

Less Dependence on Medications

Mike, a 43-year-old man with a history of addiction, was prescribed opioids for chronic pain. He was worried about becoming dependent on them and decided to try cannabis as an alternative. After consulting with his doctor, he started using a high-CBD strain and found that it helped him manage his pain without the need for opioids.

Increased Mobility

Samantha, a 62-year-old woman with arthritis, had been using opioids for years to manage pain and improve her mobility. She decided to try cannabis after reading about its potential benefits and found that it allowed her to move more freely without the negative side effects of opioids.

These patient success stories demonstrate the potential of cannabis as a safe and effective alternative or adjunct to traditional pain medications. While not everyone may experience the same benefits, it’s clear that more research is needed to fully understand the effects of cannabis on chronic pain and how it can best be used as a treatment option.

Questions and Answers:

Can cannabis completely replace opioids for chronic pain management?

It’s important to note that every individual’s experience with chronic pain is different and while some may find relief through cannabis, it may not completely replace opioids for others. However, studies have shown that in some cases, using cannabis alongside opioids can increase their effectiveness and reduce the dosage needed.

What are the potential side effects of using cannabis for chronic pain management?

Some potential side effects include dry mouth, dizziness, impaired memory and concentration, increased heart rate, and in some cases, anxiety and paranoia. It’s important to note that cannabis can also interact with other medications so it’s crucial to speak with a healthcare professional before incorporating it into your pain management plan.

How long does it take for cannabis to start working for chronic pain relief?

The onset of cannabis effects can vary based on the method of consumption and individual factors such as tolerance and metabolism. Smoking or vaporizing cannabis can provide quicker relief, typically within minutes, while edibles can take up to an hour or more to take effect. CBD oils or topicals may take longer to provide relief but can have longer-lasting effects.


Adam Smith

As a male reader, I believe that the findings of this research on chronic pain and cannabis are very promising. It is great to see that there may be an alternative solution to dealing with chronic pain without relying solely on opioids. I have known people who have struggled with opioid addiction due to chronic pain, so the thought of cannabis potentially being a safer and more effective option is very intriguing. However, it is still important to approach this with caution and to consult with healthcare professionals to ensure that cannabis is the right choice for managing chronic pain. Overall, this research is a step in the right direction towards finding new and innovative ways to address chronic pain.

Ashley Davis

As someone who suffers from chronic pain, I know firsthand how debilitating it can be. The thought of being dependent on opioids for relief is daunting to say the least. That’s why I was fascinated to read about the potential for cannabis to help manage chronic pain and possibly reduce reliance on opioids. It’s encouraging to see that research is being done in this area. However, I believe further studies are needed to fully understand the benefits and risks of using cannabis for pain management. It’s important for patients to work closely with their healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment for their individual needs. Overall, I’m hopeful that this research will lead to more options for those of us dealing with chronic pain.

Samantha White

As someone who has struggled with chronic pain for years, I am constantly seeking out new ways to manage it without relying on opioids. Although I have heard about the potential benefits of using cannabis for pain relief, I have always been hesitant to try it due to the stigma surrounding it. However, after reading this article and learning about the research that suggests cannabis can help people cut down on opioid use, I am more open to exploring this option. It is encouraging to hear that cannabis may provide a safer alternative to opioids, especially considering the growing opioid epidemic. I hope that more research is done in this area and that healthcare professionals become more knowledgeable about using cannabis as a pain management tool.