Peter Grinspoon, MD, who teaches at the Harvard Medical School, recently told us (below) the crucial difference between opiates and medical cannabis in the treatment of pain: Use an opiate immediately after serious trauma – surgery or a broken arm, say – then when the pain lessens switch to medical cannabis because it’s as or more effective and doesn’t threaten your health:
It’s [medical cannabis] not for severe pain, like if you break a bone you probably need an opiate. But for the chronic pain that people are getting from like their knees wearing out or their back aching or from arthritis, [it’s] a very attractive alternative because it’s safer than the opiates and it’s probably safer than ibuprofen [and] the naprosyn that people take year after year which can hurt your kidney and can give you an ulcer. . . .
Opiates are stronger. So for right after the surgery for probably the first 3 to 7 days . . . you need the opiates. The cannabis wouldn’t be strong enough. So cannabis is for mild to moderate pain. Once you get to the moderate pain level the cannabis would be much better because it wouldn’t make you fell spaced-out or constipated . . . like the opiates [do].
In the mild to moderate stage of pain cannabis is the superior drug.
And just how superior is medical cannabis? “These days especially working with a doctor or nurse who knows a lot about cannabis, you can pretty much control your pain,” Grinspoon says. Moreover, “With legalization they’re breeding up CBD [increasing its concentration in the cannabis plant] . . . You know you could just take the CBD for example and for some people that’s enough to help them with the chronic pain and it doesn’t get you high at all – no abuse, no psychoactivity.”