A growing number of U.S. adults who struggle with chronic pain problems are opting for cannabis to manage discomfort. This is according to a study featured in JAMA Open Network, which indicated that a quarter of U.S. adults seek plant-based medicine to ease their pain.
Last spring, researchers at Michigan Medicine Medical center of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor surveyed 1,661 adults with chronic pain. All the adults surveyed resided in one of the 36 U.S. states with fully functioning medical cannabis programs and Washington, D.C.The findings suggested that 26% of surveyed chronic pain patients reported using the plant within the past year for pain management. Among those who consumed cannabis to ease pain, more than half successfully reduced their intake of prescription opioids, non-opioids, and over-the-counter pain medications.
What is Chronic Pain and Who is Affected?
Chronic pain lingers for several months; most cases last 3-6 months. According to the “Survey of chronic pain in Europe: prevalence, impact on daily life, and treatment” by Breivik H, Collett B, Cohen R, Gallacher D, Ventafridda V (featured in the European Journal of Pain 2006;10(4):287-333 (11)) approximately 100 million people in Europe experience chronic pain regularly.Every year, approximately one in five Europeans, or 20% of the adult population in Europe, are negatively impacted by chronic pain. Included in this group are 153 million people who endure migraines or other debilitating headaches, 200 million with musculoskeletal disorders, and 100 million with other forms of chronic pain.Individuals who are affected by chronic pain battle a multitude of social and economic burdens.
Aside from the difficulties it causes for people diagnosed with chronic pain, this medical condition also creates a dent in healthcare systems, economies, and society. Experts estimate that half of EU citizens experience back pain at some stage. Chronic pain is one of the primary reasons why people leave the labor market prematurely, and it majorly influences disability retirement. Europe’s economy is bludgeoned by pain to €441 billion each year. In addition to its impact on the workforce, chronic pain is also a significant cause of disability in every region of Europe. It amplifies the risk of poverty, social exclusion, and other health problems. Significant health inequalities persist, with many patients without access to suitable pain treatment in the EU. Stigma and lack of public awareness impose a heavier burden on patients and families by distracting people in pain from seeking treatment.
Chronic Pain Patients Favored Cannabis as a Meditative Aid
Approximately 39% of people who reported using cannabis for chronic pain relief claimed it deterred them from engaging in physical therapy. Moreover, 19% said it resulted in them meditating less to manage their pain. Based on the study’s outcome, fewer than 1% said their cannabis consumption resulted in more opioid, non-opioid, or over-the-the-counter pain medication use.Meanwhile, 24% of people who consumed cannabis to treat chronic pain said their consumption habits ignited more passion for meditation. An additional 26% said
their cannabis use resulted in a decrease in cognitive behavioral therapy, which is sometimes used in combination with medication to ease the symptoms of chronic pain. Interestingly, 17% said their cannabis use prompted them to participate in more cognitive behavioral therapy sessions as part of their pain-management regimen. Mindfulness offers a way of refocusing the mind and body without judgment.
When practiced daily, people living with chronic pain can experience relief from negative or worrisome thoughts about the pain. When those thoughts are in motion, the pain and mood levels can increase, which is why it is so essential to maintain a calm mind.”The fact that patients report substituting cannabis for pain medications so much underscores the need for research on the benefits and risks of using cannabis for chronic pain,” said Mark Bicket, who serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and co-director of the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network.
Complementary Health Approaches for Chronic PainResearch suggests that hypnosis is moderately effective in managing chronic pain symptoms. Although the effectiveness of hypnosis may vary from one person to another, it is generally pretty effective compared to traditional types of medical care. A 2017 review of studies of mindfulness meditation for chronic pain highlighted the power of “going within” to improve pain symptoms. Furthermore, studies have shown that listening to music can relieve self-reported pain and depression symptoms in people who experience chronic pain.Acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation, Qigong, relaxation techniques, spinal manipulation, Tai chi, and Yoga are other complementary medicine that may prove helpful in cases of chronic pain.