Chronic Pain: How to use medical cannabis to get the greatest pain relief

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The always helpful Peter Grinspoon, MD, had some pretty interesting things to say recently (above) about how to use medical cannabis (MC) to treat pain.

To begin with, don’t smoke it! It’s bad for the lungs and vape cartridges can come with harmful chemicals. But the real issue is that you’ll lose cannabis’s medicinal value. He explains:

When you burn it you heat it up to 1100 degrees you just incinerate it – you lose the medicine. But to extract the medicine you just need to heat it up to 400 degrees in one of these devices and it’s much safer for your lungs.

“These devices” refer to cannabis vaporizers that, while easy to use, come equipped with some pretty sophisticated technology that allows you to get the most medicine out of the plant.

Second, for long term chronic pain he suggests an edible as long as you’re careful about the dose. The advantage of edibles is sustained pain relief – about 8 hrs. Whereas inhalation with the vaporizer only lasts for a few hours.

So for chronic pain Grinspoon suggests a low dose of an edible for long-acting relief. And should there be a spike in pain, take a puff from a vaporizer.

Third, though Grinspoon says nothing works particularly well for nerve pain, sciatica, for example, MC works better than anything else. That’s because MC does many things at once – it treats pain, anxiety, and insomnia. So when the pain is complex and wrapped up in other symptoms that MC treats well, he says that kind of pain is effectively treated with MC:

First … it dampens the pain. It affects the part of your brain that interprets pain as an unpleasant sensation so you still notice the pain but it doesn’t bother you as much. Second, [because] you feel better and the pain doesn’t bother you as much you’re able to do other things. [And] it helps with the anxiety about pain – pain & anxiety being two sides of the same coin.

Grinspoon has more interesting things to say as well. Most important, perhaps, are his comments about the growing body of evidence that supports psilocybin as a treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions.

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