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What science says about the use of medical cannabis for chronic pain.

Nearly 84 percent of Hawai’i’s registered patients use medical cannabis to help relieve suffering from chronic, severe pain. More people consider cannabis to be a safer and more natural alternative to conventional pharmaceuticals, especially addictive opioids.  Chronic pain can be debilitating. It affects several aspects of life including mood, health and general outlook. Chronic pain may also interfere with personal relationships and career pursuits. Many will seek out a dispensary after hearing cannabis is an effective pain treatment, but what does the science say?

Safe and Effective

Dr. Donald Abrams, a member of Maui Grown Therapies’ Science & Medical Advisory Board, and recently-retired Chief of Hematology/Oncology at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital says:

“Given the safety profile of cannabis compared to opioids, cannabis appears to be far safer.”

Dr. Abrams also served on the Blue Ribbon Panel for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) during its 2017 review of The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids.[1] Their first conclusion is that there is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults.

Immediate and Long-Lasting Relief

A small inhalation of a live resin or distillate using a Safe Pulmonary Administration (vaporizing) device can jumpstart pain relief within 90 seconds.

Maui Grown Therapies' Renew Serum

Maui Grown Therapies’ Renew Serum

Those with certain types of pain may find topical remedies to provide great support.

For example, our Renew serum is specially formulated to relieve neuropathic pain while Cool is designed to alleviate inflammatory pain.

Ingested cannabinoids (capsules, lozenges, or tinctures) can take up to two hours before analgesic effects are felt, but relief can be sustained for 6 to 8 hours. Many patients report that Extra Strength capsules, taken two hours before bedtime, is perfect for a pain-free night’s sleep. Other patients report Delta-8 THC capsules offer sustained daytime relief with minimal psychoactivity. Most patients report optimal relief from combining cannabis products.

Expect Some Trial and Error

Everyone will respond to cannabis differently due to many variables including the type of chronic pain being treated, cannabis strain or type of manufactured product used, dosage, and method of administration. Be patient because the first thing you try may not suit your specific situation, but keep trying.

Remember: Less is More

We offer a friendly reminder that THC is bi-phasic, meaning it has different effects at different doses. A 2015 UC San Diego[2] study concluded that “less is more” when dosing cannabis. Start low and go slow–while moderate doses of THC reduce pain, large doses can actually amplify painful sensations. (Learn more in our post on dosing guidance).

[1] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
[2] Mark Wallace & Timothy Furnish, “What Steps Should be Taken to Integrate Marijuana into Pain Regimens?” Pain, 54 (2015) 225-227