NEUROPATHY

A Brief
Description

Neuropathy, arguably one of the most painful sensations experienced by humans, occurs as a result of damage, dysfunction or injury to nerves. The two commonly diagnosed types of neuropathy — peripheral and diabetic — produce similar symptoms, but whereas peripheral is usually caused by injury, the diabetic counterpart is brought on by damage from high blood sugar. As a result of neuropathy, nerves essentially become confused and send false pain signals to the brain that are often described by patients as feeling of tingling and numbness, shooting and burning, or prickly pins and needles. Neuropathy patients, suffering from a condition that is often described as chronic, have limited treatment options with the most common being pharmaceutical pain killers.

Although opiates have been the most common treatment option in recent decades for the more than 380 million people suffering from neuropathy worldwide, the use of medical cannabis as a successful reliever of chronic pain has been highlighted again in recent years. Cannabis has been used to treat many different medical conditions —including several different types of pain — for centuries, and recent research and anecdotal evidence has brought it back to the forefront of neuropathic pain treatments.

How Can
Cannabis Help?

Cannabinoids, the organic chemical compounds possessing much of the healing powers of medical cannabis, bind to the same endocannabinoid receptors throughout the body and brain that are responsible the regulation of several physiological body systems, including pain, mood, memory and appetite. While pharmaceuticals are also designed to react with the same receptors, they rarely bind as naturally as the cannabinoids in medical cannabis. This is why medical cannabis is such an effective treatment option for conditions that may otherwise be difficult to treat, like neuropathy. Where pharmaceutical therapies may not provide enough symptom relief to outweigh the negative side effects and potentials for addiction, cannabis can often react with the body’s receptors more efficiently and without risk of life-threatening addiction.

Multiple research studies reveal that cannabis is often a preferred method of symptom relief for neuropathy patients because it is effective, even to those who have not responded to pharmaceutical therapies, and the psychoactive side effects are not as debilitating as those presented by opiates. Several medical cannabinoids are known to treat individual symptoms like pain, anxiety, inflammation, sleep deprivation and mood disorders. While those single cannabinoid therapies are extremely successful, as highlighted by the pure CBD oils that are significantly reducing the severity and duration of many children suffering from severe forms of epilepsy, when multiple cannabinoids work together in a process called the entourage effect, the medical efficacy can increase dramatically.

The success of the entourage effect is demonstrated in the use of medical cannabis to treat neuropathic pain. THC, the most abundant psychoactive cannabinoid, has proven to be an extremely effective analgesic (pain reliever), and is also helpful in the treatment of the depression that can often accompany chronic pain conditions like neuropathy. Unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive reliever of inflammation and pain. Research has linked the inflammation-reducing characteristics of CBD, and it’s ability to eliminate excessive immune-related oxidative stress in order to allow the body to better heal itself, to significant symptom reduction in neuropathy patients. Another medical cannabinoid, CBC, displays sedative properties that are known to help those suffering from pain get some much coveted rest.

What Does The
Research Say?

As with other conditions, there is a countless amount of anecdotal research that has proven the pain relieving efficacy of cannabis – going back to the beginning of documented cannabis use over 5,000 years ago, pain relief has been a consistent physiological effect seen from cannabis use.  The experience of the leading medical experts has revealed that medical cannabis can be used to safely and effectively treat a wide variety of medical conditions, including pain, and it is often a successful therapy option when nothing else works. Where neuropathic pain can be resistant to pharmaceutical therapies, even very low doses of medical cannabis have shown to effectively reduce symptoms, and experts report that the benefits of medical cannabis far outweigh the risks.

A study released in 2011 from the scientific journal for Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics found that the combination of cannabis with opiates may have a synergistic effect.  When patients received regular doses of cannabis along with their twice-daily doses of prescribed opioids, on average participants reported a 27 percent greater decrease in pain.

An article published in the AMA Journal of Ethics analyzed several of the studies available.  The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of California complete five placebo-controlled phase II clinical trials with cannabis.  Another study reported from Canada studied patients with HIV neuropathy and other neuropathic conditions, and one study focused on a human model of neuropathic pain.  Overall, the efficacy of cannabis was comparable to that of traditional medications prescribed for neuropathic pain.  The article concluded that there is increasing evidence that cannabis may represent a useful alternative or adjunct in the management of painful peripheral neuropathy.

Is Cannabis As Safe As
Traditional Prescription Medicine?

One of the most important aspects of using medical cannabis in lieu of opiates for the treatment of pain is directly tied to the comparable risks for lethal overdose – as you’ll see below, the statistics and facts are compelling.

 

Opiates:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 1999 the amount of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled.
  • Every day in the U.S. 44 people die as a result of prescription opioid overdose.
  • Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2013 – among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes.
  • Of the 22,767 deaths related to prescription drug overdose, approximately 16,235 involved prescription opioid painkillers (71.3%).
  • In 2007, the aggregate cost of prescription opioid abuse (lost productivity, healthcare costs and criminal justice cost) totaled $55.7 billion.

Cannabis:

In 1988, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Administrative law Judge Francis L. Young, Docket No. 86-22 found the following facts to be uncontroverted:

  • There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.
  • Despite a long history of use and the extraordinarily high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible medical reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a single death.
  • Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50.  This rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity.
  • The LD-50 rating for aspirin is 1:20.  In layman’s terms this means that if the recommended dosage of aspirin is two pills, in order to induce death a person would need to consume 40 pills (20xs the recommended dosage).  For valium it’s 1:10 and for some cancer medications it can be as low as 1:1.5.
  • In strict medical terms, marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume.

Links To
Research

Cannabidiol as an emergent therapeutic strategy for lessening the impact of inflammation on oxidative stress.

Cannabidiol for neurodegenerative disorders: important new clinical applications for this phytocannabinoid?

Non-psychoactive cannabinoids modulate the descending pathway of antinociception in anaesthetized rats through several mechanisms of action.

While research has shown cannabis to be effective in providing palliative and therapeutic effects for some patients, always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before starting any new treatment utilizing medical cannabis or discontinuing an existing treatment. The content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.