Roughly one in five American adults suffers from chronic pain, according to the CDC. For years, the go-to solution for doctors has been prescription pain killers. When over-the-counter stuff isn’t good enough, patients often receive a prescription for narcotic pain killers of some sort. In recent decades, more pain patients have moved away from dangerous prescriptions to more natural relief through cannabis. Once again, medical marijuana proves safer as a new study finds that unlike opioids, marijuana use does not increase sensitivity to pain.
Study Finds Cannabis Does Not Increase Pain Sensitivity
This new study was conducted by doctoral student Michelle St. Pierre in the psychology department at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Okanagan. We now know how long-term use of opioids can affect the patient, often increasing sensitivity to pain therefore increasing perceived pain. Therefore, it is important to understand how long-term regular cannabis use might affect patients.
According to St. Pierre:
Our results suggest frequent cannabis use did not seem to be associated with elevated sensitivity to experimental pain in a manner that can occur in opioid therapy.
The study recruited volunteers who used marijuana at least three times a week or more and established a control group that never consumed cannabis. The study participants then dunked their hand and forearm in icy water for a specific amount of times – a process called a cold-pressor task test.
Opioids Increase Sensitivity To Pain
Most often, chronic pain sufferers are prescribed some of the most dangerous drugs – opioids. Addiction Center statistics found that 20-30% of people prescribed opioids misuse their medicine while around 10% of those misusing their drugs will end up addicted. There are approximately 2.1 million Americans with opioid use disorder – and at least 5% of those people will go on to try heroin.
On top of all the addiction factors, there have been many studies in recent years that have determined that even short-term use of opioids can increase sensitivity to pain. The reason this game is so dangerous is that temporary pain relief that leaves patients more sensitive to pain will only increase the pain felt by those suffering from chronic pain.
The increased pain felt after the pills wear off is the reason that so many people increase their dosage, misuse the drugs, and become addicted.
Medical Marijuana Can Reduce Opioid Dependence
On the opposite end of things, there have been many studies done suggesting that medical marijuana can help patients fight opioid addiction. This recent study from UBC Okanagan’s psychology department only further fosters the case that medical marijuana is a safer alternative to opioids or any other prescription or over-the-counter pain reliever.
St. Pierre initially expected that her results would be similar to the many studies on opioid use and increased pain sensitivity – but the results shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who uses medical marijuana for chronic pain!