How does medical cannabis work?
Medical cannabis has been prescribed for a pretty wide variety of conditions, symptoms and illnesses. There’s been little scientific or medical research into the effectiveness of cannabis because in most countries it remains illegal and therefore difficult for researchers to access. In many cases, evidence that medical cannabis is effective is anecdotal.
For people suffering chronic pain, cannabis maybe an alternative to opioids and there’s parts of your brain and body that suggest there’s a fit.
When you feel pain, it’s your nerves sending signals to your brain to let it know something’s wrong. Your body has what’s called receptors which react and affect how your nerve cells communicate with each other and your brain. Different receptors do different things, some can detect physical stimuli (pressure, temperature) and some react to chemicals in your body.
When you use a cannabis product, receptors determine what it does to your body. Since your body produces natural cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids), you have what are called cannabinoid receptors throughout your body and in your brain. These receptors react to cannabinoids in marijuana, such as Tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC.
Your body has two types of cannabinoid receptors – cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1) and cannabinoid type 2 receptor (CB2). Both receptors play a role in pain management.
The most common receptor in your central nervous system (brain and spine) is the CB1 receptor. This is the one responsible for appetite stimulation, mood effects, and the “high” feeling associated with cannabis use. These receptors alter how you perceive pain (intensity, quality).
CB2 receptors are more common in your peripheral nervous system (the nerves not in your brain and spine) and are found as part of your immune system. Activation of peripheral CB2 receptors doesn’t result in the same mood and perception changes as CB1 but has been shown to decrease pain by stimulating the release of endorphins in your body.
How cannabinoid receptors help control your pain is a complex process, involving other receptors and pathways in your nervous system. Different cannabinoids have different effects and scientists are still trying to figure out exactly why cannabis helps control pain.
Are you suffering from chronic pain? The Pain Management program at Our Clinic may be able to help. An integrated team of healthcare professionals develops an individualized program, that may include cannabis therapy, based on your current health and your goals for the future. For more information, book an appointment , or give us a call at 519-937-1881.