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Far too many Americans suffer from ongoing pain. This is particularly a problem for older adults, as the accumulation of birthdays may also contribute to an increasing likelihood of conditions such as arthritis or diabetes that can cause pain. But even younger people may suffer from chronic pain, and the current options for relief are limited.

What Can Be Used for Pain Relief?

The CDC has just issued a guideline that will make it more difficult for doctors to prescribe narcotics for chronic pain. You can read what we wrote about the new policy here. That means that many people will need to find other ways to keep pain under control.

We recently published a question about an older woman who was given a prescription for hydrocodone to ease the pain of a broken rib. When she fell again, a doctor told her the narcotic was probably to blame. He suggested acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead. This recommendation raised some hackles among readers, including this person:

Did We Overlook Medical Marijuana?

Q. When you discussed chronic pain management, you flubbed the polarized subject of medical marijuana use for pain. The proper strains of marijuana work well and are extremely cost effective in pain management.

Come to Colorado and talk to doctors who prescribe medical marijuana for patients; talk to patients and the dying who don’t care what capsule they take if it works. I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and three doctors recommended narcotics.

Narcotics Overprescribed for Older Adults:

In my retirement community, opioids are dispensed like candy. Elders fall or suffer the cognitive loss associated with these drugs.

I went to a local retail dispensary here in Colorado. The person I spoke with recommended a CBD to THC formula of 8 mg to 0.7 mg of THC. It works. You are doing elders and other in pain a grave disservice if you continue to ignore medical marijuana.

Medical Marijuana for Pain Relief:

A. Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and Washington, DC. Scientists have found it hard to study, though, since the plant produces hundreds of compounds.

Some of those compounds are being utilized medicinally. CBD stands for cannabidiol, a compound that does not make people high. THC is tetrahydrocannabinol. It contributes to the euphoric feeling recreational users seek.

Doctors are beginning to take marijuana more seriously as a botanical medicine (Annals of Medicine, online, Feb. 25, 2016).  To learn more about this topic, you may wish to listen to our hour-long interview with David Casarett, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and author of Stoned: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana.

People in chronic pain who, like you, live in states where medical marijuana is legal, may wish to investigate this possibility. It makes a great deal of sense to use it only after consulting with a knowledgable professional who can guide you as to dose, method of administration, timing and potential side effects.

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  1. Kevin

    I have been living with chronic neuropathic pain for three years while Workman’s Compensation delays approving surgical treatment to my cervical spine for an injury discovered after having emergency shoulder surgery. Their plan has been to give me opioids and Gabapentin the whole while – hoping I might just go away.

    My pain management doctor prescribed Medical Marijuana and I was able to get a card quickly here in NY. I tried various products and combinations and found some relief. However, the cost (not covered by insurance) became prohibitive.

    After much research I learned that there are a few reputable groups creating very high concentration CBD oil with virtually zero THC. This allows them to market their products as supplements, not medications, and at a third the cost due to the potency of their independent lab supported CBD products. If I need THC for breakthrough pain, I have it on hand from my NY dispensary.

    I have cut my need for Gabapentin and Percocet in half after only one month, and hope to reduce it even more before my spinal surgery, which my happen in two months or 10 depending on Workman’s Comp discretion.

  2. CC
    Ft Pierce, FL

    After another unhelpful conversation with my doctor, I am still w/o pain control and a good night’s sleep. Hopefully Florida will legalize marijuana soon. I’m about to get one of my friends to share his stash. I’m too young to spend my life working on pain control.

  3. Helen

    I personally feel that medical marijuana should be used for pain that so many people suffer with-like fibromyalgia , arthritis, R. Arthritis, severe neck and back pain that surgery doesn’t cure. We need to start helping people that suffer from so many chronic pain problems. People need help not set out to pasture to die!
    Prescription meds are so expensive and with so many, many side effects that can cause serious problems. However, the pharmacy companies won’t make their MONEY!!! How sad for all of us.

  4. Mona
    Albuquerque, NM

    I am 63 years old. Several years ago I developed Bursitis. My doctor thought it might be sciatica but after an MRI it was determined to be bursitis. Before this, I never understood what was meant by chronic pain. I was sent to a pain clinic, was given a couple of shots and PT, with very little relief. After getting my last and third shot I decided that I had to do something. When I went into the pain clinic that morning, my BP was 186/99. I was in pain so much, and I had taken my BP meds Metropolol and Losartan that morning.

    I was encouraged by a friend to try the medical marijuana. It took about four months to get approved by the New Mexico State health department. Had I not done this, I would never believe the benefits of marijuana. I don’t like to smoke it, but I have been using the products with marijuana, especially a spray oil with magnesium and 40 mg cannabis. It has been a miracle to me. I can function again, I can sleep at night. I see mostly people my age and older at the dispensary. All I can say is “don’t knock it till you try it.”

  5. Mary

    I just saw an article that says the FDA is banning CBD as a supplement since a drug company has applied for testing it. Anything that really works is possibly in their sight to make a drug instead of a supplement.

    Soon, medical marijuana may be banned totally if that continues.

  6. Helen
    Edwardsville, IL

    More on Medical Marijuana please.

  7. Lisa

    Although in some areas, medical marijuana is overused/abused, I strongly think it should be made legal in all states. I live with chronic pain, and take meds when needed if the pain gets overwhelming. I would much rather take some kind of standardized medical marijuana if it was legal in my state. Higher ups making laws do not live with chronic pain, and therefore have no idea what they’re doing to the citizens for whom they’re making those decisions.

  8. Jay
    NC-North Carolina

    I think once people get over the fact that they have been brain washed against marijuana, we can get past this issue of legalizing it. It is no more addictive than anything else under the sun. Credit cards are abused. They are legal. Some people abuse cookies, and while some people would probably like to outlaw those, there are still plenty on the shelves. It is a shame, since so many people could be helped by marijuana but because it of the ridiculous and unfounded paranoia that makes people think you are a drug addict or will become one if you use it, we still live in the dark ages when it comes to this subject. Does it help with pain? Yes it does and it even helps me get to sleep. Without it, I end up tossing and turning all night and that leads to being grumpy and in a fog the next day. The main issue with it……I’ll have my mugshot posted if I get caught buying it.

  9. Anita

    Marijuana is not hard to study in the US because of the different chemical compounds, it’s impossible to study because it’s still a Schedule 1 drug.

    And Marijuana is exciting for medical use BECAUSE it contains so many beneficial chemicals. It’s not just THC and CBD. That’s the reason why different strains have different uses and benefits for patients.

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