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Is Medical Marijuana a Possible Treatment Option for Neuropathy?

For many people with neuropathic pain, many medications can’t fully help them deal with the symptoms they have when their nerves are hurt. Analgesics, or pain-relieving medications, or anesthetics, have been used by many of these patients. These medications or anesthetics temporarily affect the nerves, causing them to stop feeling bad. But even so, these are not the best choice for neuropathies because they often have long-term problems.

In the past, anticonvulsants, tricyclic drugs, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors were used to treat neuropathic pain. Today, they are used more and more often (SNRIs). Most of the time, patients still need more pain control in addition to taking their regular medications, but this is not always the case.

Recent clinical studies have found that marijuana can help relieve some pain, even in people who haven’t responded to traditional pain medications like opioids or gabapentin. However, short-term side effects of cannabis use include headache, throat annoyance, and dizziness. Marijuana’s long-term safety and the safety of its elements are still being researched. Your doctor or nurse should always be the one to know about any painful symptoms, potential treatments, or side effects that you’re having.

There are many chemical components in cannabis, such as THC and CBD, that affect this condition through the body’s endocannabinoid system, but they also have an effect on other parts of the body, such as the brain. The endocannabinoid system in one’s body is made up of low-saturated neurotransmitters that help you control your emotions and how much pain you feel.

They help control pain in the nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system when they bind to cannabinoid receptors called CB1 receptors. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, have been found to affect the immune cells in the rest of your body. CB2 receptors on white blood cells can be activated, which can make cells respond in a way that reduces pain and inflammation.

Medical marijuana relieves neuropathy

Researchers say that CB1 receptors are discovered in the nucleus accumbens gray (PAG), the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, and the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM), which are all parts of the brain. These places play a role in how medical marijuana can change the way the CNS processes acute and long-term pain signals.

When the CB1 and CB2 receptors are enabled, they make more of a self-made neurotransmitter called anandamide (AEA). This makes the body happier. A lot of molecules in the CNS are called astrocytes, and they make up 60% to 70% of them. To understand why this is important, think about how AEA affects the astrocytes. They make a protein that helps neuronal or nerve cell growth, which may help with pain, loss of feeling, and tingling sensations caused by neuropathy.

If you want to learn more about how the endocannabinoid system works, please check out our page on endocannabinoids!

You may experience the following benefits while using cannabis for this condition:

  • Chronic pain is reduced
  • Leading to improved moods
  • Better sleep
  • Reduced muscle spasticity 

Recommendations for different types of Neuropathy

You should know that medicinal marijuana products can be very different in their effectiveness, as well as how long they last. If you smoke or use creams or make tinctures, oils, and edibles that have medicinal cannabis in them for a long time, for example, they may not work as well or last as long. 

A study from Existing Pharmaceutical Biotechnology talks about how CBD oil can help people with peripheral neuropathy in their legs. This placebo-controlled research is good also because patients who used CBD on their skin felt less intense pain, less sharp pain, less cold pain, and less pointed and itchy sensations than the people who didn’t use it.

Using inhaled marijuana as a second- or third-line possible treatment is the most efficient and cost-effective way to deal with neuropathic pain or neuralgia, according to a 2019 study. However, more research is needed to look into the long-term consequences of smoking cannabis and the form which includes peripheral neuropathy or neuralgia.

Then, a research scientist named Dr. Ethan Russo, thinks that THC doses should be kept to an absolute max of 20-30 mg a day, and they must be used in combined effect with CBD to help reduce psychoactive and negative effects. It’s better to start with a low dosage (like 5-10 mg) and then gradually increase them until you reach your goal. The correct dosage is generally the lowest amount that has therapeutic benefits without having side effects.

Keep these considerations in mind

In a Cochrane review from 2018, people with nerve pain or neuropathic pain were more likely to get 30% or 50% that much pain relief when they took medical marijuana instead of a placebo. People who took medical marijuana had a higher chance of having side effects, like a rise in nervous system adverse outcomes, and psychiatric disorders.

Terms related to Neuropathy

The following are terms that are commonly used to describe this condition: 

  • Dysesthesia – Causing abnormal sensations in the skin that may include burning, tingling, numbness, or pain at the touch of a light touch
  • Hyperesthesia – Abnormally high sensitivity to touch, touch sensation, or any other sense in the body
  • Hyperalgesia – It is a sensation of heightened pain sensibility
  • Neuritis – A neuropathy is an inflammation of the nerve resulting in pain, loss of reflexes, and a shrinking of muscles.
  • Hypoalgesia – A reduction in pain sensitivity.
  • Hypoesthesia – A reduced feeling of touch and numbness 
  • Paresthesia – An unusual sensation of stinging, stinging, or burning on the skin
  • Neuralgia – A painful condition that affects the nerves of particular parts of the body, typically intermittently and severely
  • Vertigo – Experiencing the sensation of spinning or tilting and losing one’s equilibrium.

Causes of Neuropathy

Neuropathy isn’t a single disease. It’s more like a symptom induced by injury to the spinal cord, which can make people feel numb, tingly, or have pain in their nerves. Some of the things that can cause this condition:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Alcoholism
  • Bone marrow disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Deficient amounts of niacin, vitamin B3, and vitamin E
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Inherited disorders
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Lyme disease
  • Medications, such as chemotherapy for cancer 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Shingles
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Tumors that develop or press on the nerves
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Vasculitis

Neuropathy Types: Understanding Their Differences

Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves that travel from the extremities of your body to your feet, legs, hands, and arms. It’s the most prevalent form of this ailment and is caused by diabetes. The following are some subcategories:

  • Neuropathy that affects the autonomic nerves, or the nervous system that keeps your body working well, is called autonomic neuropathy. Because of the way these nerves work, your body may well have a hard time keeping its temperature, which is also called homeostasis, stable. If you have problems with your digestive system and other parts of your body, it can also be bad for your health.
  • Motor influence is part of the central nervous system muscle movements and can make it hard to walk, grasp things, or talk.
  • Sensory affects the part of the nerves that sense touch, temperature, or pain. It also affects the part of the nerves that send signals to the brain.
  • Focal neuropathy is an injury that only affects a single nerve, as compared to proximal, peripheral, and autonomic neuropathies that damage many nerves at the same time. Polyneuropathies are a type of neuropathy that affects a lot of different nerves.
  • People who have Cranial Neuropathy have problems with the 12 pairs of nerves that connect the brain to the rest of the body. These nerves are in charge of sight, blinking, taste, and hearing. People who have this kind of right treatment and support have trouble moving their eyes. It usually starts with pain in the eyes, and then the eye muscle is paralyzed.
  • Charcot’s joint, which is also called neuropathic arthropathy, tends to happen whenever the joint breaks down because of damage to the nerves that connect it to the body. A lot of people lose feeling in their feet when this happens.
  • When someone has diabetic amyotrophy, the muscles in the upper portion of the legs, thighs, and buttocks get hurt. Most of the time, it weakens muscles, but it can also cause pain in the nerves. In diabetic patients, this is the most popular type of neuropathy, and it primarily affects seniors who have diabetes. This is also the most common type.
  • Pudendal neuralgia happens whenever the pudendal injury is severe and the patient feels pain in their legs. The pudendal nerve helps the muscles control the rectum, pelvic floor, and bladder, by giving them information about how to move. When this nerve is hurt, patients can have pelvic pain, sexual problems, problems with urination, or fecal incontinence. We have a page on interstitial cystitis that talks about how medical marijuana can help people who have bladder pain.
  • Idiopathic neuropathy is a type of neuropathy that is found because there is no evidence that a nerve has been damaged and there is no sense of pain, numbness, or discomfort.

Science Says What?

UC Davis Medical Center did a study on 38 people who had complex regional pain syndrome, spinal cord injuries, peripheral neuropathy, and sensory neuropathy. They smoked marijuana to help them manage their pain. Those who had neuropathy felt burning pain, had skin that was sensitive to light touching or cold. They also had swelling, skin color changes, and limited motor movement in the part of their bodies that were affected by the neuropathy. People who took part in this study saw their neuropathic pain go down by at least 30%.

In this study, the results show that cannabis doesn’t have a calming effect on people. Instead, it cuts down on both the neuronal function of nerve pain (nociception) and the sentimental part of the pain experience.

It was another study that looked at adults who had neuropathic pain after a traumatic event or surgery. They were given a pipe and either a placebo or 2.5 percent, 6 percent, or 9.4 percent THC for two weeks. Participants in the study who smoked the 9.4% THC had less pain and better sleep when they took 25 mg thrice a day for 5 days, the results show. Patients with type 2 diabetes peripheral neuropathy and those who had treatment-resistant neuralgia also had similar findings to this study. This is because both groups had similar results.

For this condition, the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine conducted a review of studies in 2018 that focused on medicinal cannabis treatment. They thought that medical cannabis could help with the pain of peripheral neuropathy, based on a few small clinical studies. Study after study says medicinal cannabis helps treat the condition, as well as help patients sleep, get relief from pain and improve their ability to do things. This includes people who don’t get help from traditional pain relief methods.

As described by a pharmacist and author Colleen Higgins:

Neuropathic pain affects millions of people. It can be like ‘pins and needles,’ burning, tingling or completely numbing, and it can happen anywhere in the body. Doctors are now only able to prescribe a very small number of medications, and all of them have unpleasant side effects like gaining weight and fatigue.

Medical Cannabis comes in a variety of forms, including oral delivery, topical, and sublingual. This means that every patient can find a product that fits their needs and comfort level. Cannabis may be able to help neuropathic pain patients get the relief they’ve been looking for for a long time. It has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect and is very safe.

Colleen Higgins is the author of The Cannabis Prescription: The use of medical marijuana as a natural substitute for pharmaceutical medicine to reduce or replace its side effects. She works in a pharmacy.

*DigiDrs is not offering this as professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self diagnose, or prescribe treatment based on the information provided in these pages. Consult a physician before making decisions on the treatment of any of these medical conditions.

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