Respected pain management physician Bruce Nicholson recently published an opinion editorial in PennLive, arguing in favor of using cannabis rather than opioids to treat pain.
With opioid painkillers claiming the lives of 44 Americans everyday, medical leaders have been tasked with coming up with solutions for addressing the crisis. Pennsylvania-based pain management specialist Dr. Bruce Nicholson believes one avenue for combating the opiate misuse problem is for physicians to recommend cannabis instead. In a recent opinion editorial published by PennLive.com, Nicholson made the argument that “medical marijuana is a safe, non-addictive option.”
“Cannabis has made an incredible breakthrough as a legitimate medication for patients suffering from pain,” wrote Nicholson, who’s also the co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of TruVo Health Care. “Several studies have produced substantial results showing that cannabinoids – the chemical compounds found in marijuana – reduce pain and is approximately 20 times more potent than aspirin as an anti-inflammatory.”
Nicholson also pointed out the recent findings of an extensive medical 10,000-study research review by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which concluded that medical cannabis significantly reduces pain to patients.
Physicians have traditionally prescribed opioids for managing acute and chronic pain. With prolonged use, however, opioids’ pain-relieving effects lessen and the body can develop dependence. Today, the U.S. is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic, and drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury death in the nation. Cannabis has shown to a substantially safer substance for reducing pain than opioids. Medical professionals like Nicholson have publicly encouraged doctors to consider recommending cannabis.
Findings of recent studies strengthen Nicholson’s argument. Last month, a study found that medical marijuana legalization reduces opioid-related hospitalizations by 23 percent. Cannabis has even shown it could be beneficial for those managing opioid addiction by simultaneously reducing pain and curbing opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
The pain specialist also explained that even cannabis products low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound responsible for marijuana’s mind-altering effect, have shown efficacy for treating discomfort. Cannabidiol (CBD), the second most prominent cannabinoid found in cannabis, is non-psychoactive and has been found in studies to manage pain levels.
“Many patients have used this medication with minimal or no psychoactive effects, making this a viable option for the treatment of chronic pain and inflammation,” Nicholson said.
In Nicholson’s home state of Pennsylvania, at least ten die from a drug overdose everyday, and the state had over 3,500 overdose deaths in 2015 alone. Pennsylvania lawmakers legalized medical marijuana in 2016 to become the 24th of what are now 28 states to adopt comprehensive medical marijuana legislation. State officials are currently in the process of establishing regulations and it’s expected that the program will be implemented sometime in 2018.
“Around this time next year, Pennsylvania will not only be able to offer patients a safe, effective form of pain management, but may also help curb the overuse of NSAIDs throughout the state. Residents should not have to sacrifice their health to find relief from pain,” Nicholson said.
Learn more about cannabis’ potential for addressing the opioid crisis or its capabilities for reducing pain by visiting our education page.