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Cannabis can help chronic pain, addiction

Cannabis is experiencing a surge in popularity. Previously shunned and demonised, the drug is being used to improve the outlook for people suffering from chronic illnesses and addiction around the world.

“Medicinal cannabis represents a unique class of medicine, as it’s rare for any one class of drug to have such a broad spectrum of effects – treating a wide range of symptoms, including pain, spasticity, nausea, anxiety and seizures,” Dr Danial Schecter, Director of Global Medical Services at Spectrum Therapeutics, told Wellness Daily.

“From experience in medicine, these effects are supported by enormous scientific advances in our understanding of the body’s own endogenous system (also known as the endocannabinoid system) of cannabinoid molecules and receptors, which plays an important role in a variety of conditions and processes.”

Dr Schecter points to a long history of demonisation of cannabis as a “gateway drug” – a drug that leads users to try other, harder drugs – as one of the reasons that public support for medicinal cannabis has been low.

But he says that use of cannabis as medicine goes back 5,000 years.

“People focus on the recreational use over the medicinal, and that’s significant in understanding why there’s so much stigma,” Dr Schecter said.

“There’s also the fact that many people don’t recognise a distinction between recreational and medicinal. They are incredibly different across intention, use, quantity, quality, product and method of administration.”

One area where medical cannabis could prove particularly effective is in reduction of use of opioid painkillers, which have been the go-to painkiller for everything from chronic pain to surgical recovery for decades. Opioids come with an array of side effects and are extremely addictive.

Cannabis functions in a “multimodal manner” and impacts a wider range of functions that determine how people react and cope with pain. It is also less addictive than opioids and provides better patient outcomes.

Cannabis, like any drug, has side effects. But Dr Schechter believes the risk of these can be reduced by comprehensively screening patients for a history of mental health disorders and ensuring that cannabis is used under medical supervision.

“Negative effects often depend on the dose (especially related to THC), mode of administration (whether taken through inhalation or oral), age of patient, experience with cannabis and frequency of use,” Dr Schecter said.

“Under medical supervision, at therapeutic doses, cannabinoids are very well tolerated and may have only mild to moderate effects, such as dizziness and drowsiness.”

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