Neuropathy Can Be Debilitating. Here’s How Cannabis Can Help

There is no shortage of medical treatments for peripheral neuropathy, a chronic condition that impacts about 20 million people in the U.S. alone.

The condition can bring about feeling freezing pain or burning sensations, a loss of coordination or balance, sharp stabbing or electric-like pain, leg and foot pain that can lead to sleep problems, muscle cramping or weakness or unusual sweating, loss of coordination and balance, sharp shooting pain, muscle weakness and trouble sleeping.

Neuropathic pain can be the result of a genetic predisposition or common problems including diabetes, alcoholism, malnutrition, infections and exposure to toxic chemicals. Traditional medicines to combat the pain have long included over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription pain relievers like oxycodone or tramadol. But there are side effects involved, generally mild with over-the-counter medications and severe, up to addiction, in the case of prescription medications.

Cannabis: Nature’s Pain Relief Treatment

Enter cannabis, which is being shown as having positive pain relief without the side effects that those having neuropathic pain are plagued by.

Cannabis for Chronic Pain – The Proof

Last year, the Chicago Tribune reported that the National Academy of Sciences published a study saying there is conclusive or substantial scientific evidence that cannabis is effective at treating chronic pain by calming muscle spasms. The new reviews into pain were commissioned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, the department declined to allow the study’s authors to be interviewed by the Tribune.

Veterans Affairs Reticent About Cannabis

A spokesman for the department, Curt Cashour, did provide a written comment from David Shulkin, in 2017 the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The statement said the VA system will not prescribe cannabis “although there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful.”

Cannabis for Neuropathy

Others aren’t as reticent about the help cannabis can provide for those dealing with neuropathic pain. A study reported in Medscape Medical News suggests inhaled cannabis can blunt the pain of neuropathy. “The higher the dose, the more the pain relief,” first author Mark Wallace, MD, told the magazine. “There was, however, a dose-dependent increase in euphoria.”

Cannabis Treatment For Diabetes

Dr. Wallace, the chair of the Division of Pain Management at the University of California, San Diego, said the study was the first randomized controlled trial of inhaled cannabis for diabetic neuropathy pain. It was published in the July 2015 edition of the Journal of Pain.

Diabetic Neuropathy on the Rise

Dr. Wallace and his co-authors wrote that painful diabetic neuropathy seems to be on the rise and that currently used medications don’t seem to adequately relieve the pain. While the study showed there was an easing of the neuropathic pain with the cannabis, he said there were other issues. Perhaps the most significant of those is the worry on the part of the patients that cognitive abilities will be impaired with the drug’s use.

“I have been prescribing medicinal marijuana for the last few years, and what I’m finding with this medicinal use is they don’t like the high feeling,” he said. “If they do get that effect, they only use (cannabis) at night, because it helps them sleep.”

Because of that, Dr. Wallace, who spent two years getting approval from six state and federal agencies before beginning the study, suggests cannabis with less THC may be best moving forward, because it is the THC that causes most of the psychoactive effects.

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