A study just recently published has shown that low-dose, vaporized cannabis products, are effective in treating neuropathic pain. This is significant for a large number of people who suffer this condition. I suppose I should start with, what is neuropathic pain?
Some conditions, diabetes and HIV amongst them, cause a kind of phantom pain in the body because of specific damage being done to the nervous system. To break it down to layman terms without spewing a whole lot of Latin phrases used in medicine, your nerves are like wires in an electrical circuit. There are signals travelling along those wires that tell our muscles what to do, how our organs function, all those important things. When the nerves get damaged by disease, they act like frayed wires, sending false signals. A very severe form of this is Multiple Sclerosis where the patient slowly loses control of muscle function and experiences pain and spasms all over their body.
Traditionally the treatment for neuropathic pain was opioid drugs. As one would expect, the dose required with a drug like Demerol to control the pain is often well into the psychoactive dose and the patient is rendered more or less inert. Take enough opiates and you’ll know what I mean, you get numb, slow and kind of spacey. If you wanted to say, do a job or bathe every day, this isn’t good. Long-term exposure to this kind of therapy eventually leads to apathy and emotional depression. I’ve been there; it isn’t a good place to be.
A recent study, a synopsis of which is linked at the bottom of this article, shows that vaporized cannabis can control neuropathic pain in doses low enough that the psychoactive element of cannabis use is minimized. This means no pain, and no stoned either. For people who want a medication that controls their pain, but doesn’t rule their life, this is a veritable miracle.
It’s easy for cannabis smokers who use recreationally to miss the importance of this. Cannabis can get you really high, but it can also make you feel better without getting you high. From a medical perspective this is unheard of. Neuropathic pain is notoriously stubborn pain to treat, and often requires disabling doses of opioid drugs to control. For those living in the prison of Morphine treatment and constant pain, this is a jailbreak of kinds and is well worth celebration.
When allowed the opportunity to do so, medical science proves again and again that cannabis is one of the most versatile and useful plants we have ever discovered. While there are groups trying to make new types of painkillers out of spider poison and other strange sources, cannabis waits in the wings to replace many needlessly contrived treatments and drugs which are notoriously expensive and complicated to produce.
Part of the conflict here is going to be with drug makers. They make a fortune using patented processes and exclusive equipment and facilities to make drugs. When you can just grow what you need in a planter box on the balcony, it could put a lot of people out of work and disappoint a whole bunch of investors. I for one say too bad for all of them. There used to be a lot of people employed building railroad tracks, but that business is waning these days. Those people found other jobs, and all the people making codeine pills and morphine patches may just have to do the same someday in the future.
Minister of State for Health Alex White to Introduce Proposals Next Year to Legalise Cannabis Based Medicine.
In a written Dáil response issued to Mr Flanagan, Minister of State for Health Alex White said he hoped to bring legislative proposals early next year to make cannabis-based medicinal products available on prescription.
Mr Flanagan said, “This should not be taking as long as it is. The Government should hurry up on this as there are people going through hell out there being not able to get the proper pain relief.”
Independent TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan, has campaigned for many years for medicinal cannabis to be available on prescription for cancer and multiple sclerosis sufferers, and others suffering from ill-health,
An MS patient writes:
I am a patient of the pain clinic at University College Hospital Galway (above). After 12 years living with chronic pain caused by my Multiple Sclerosis a treatment was found to treat my chronic pain and enable me to live a near normal life; after years of trying various medications and blocks.
You can only begin to imagine the joy I felt that first morning after having a lidocaine infusion to wake ‘pain free’ it was akin to rebirth. I was in a position to be the mother and wife I had longed to be but was unable to become due to pain and the side effects caused by medication.
The clinic and I had a system where I would call once the pain began to return, as I am sure your aware each infusion is effective only for a certain time span; this can vary wildly depending on the stability of my ms.
I would receive an appointment for the day ward within a few weeks, this was managed in such a way that I never fell into the state of unbearable nerve pain I had had to endure in the past, in fact my pain consultant stated he would bring me in monthly for treatment if his budget would allow.
Since September I have been living with the pain once more, I am a victim of cuts at UCHG, cuts you sanctioned. I am now in a state of living death: sleeping taking Oxynorm then sleeping some more.
In fact I have now become dependent on the drug not just to treat the pain but because my body needs it! you must be experienced from your time as a GP how quickly a persons body becomes dependent on highly addictive medication, especially when used for more than two weeks; I am on week six right now. I have been informed that the earliest appointment I can have at the day ward is on November 21, a further six weeks.
I have now reached the stage where I believe this situation is an infringement of my human rights and most certainly a breech of the Patients Charter. I will be seeking a legal representative to force the HSE to meet the requirements of the patients charter and seek compensation for the physical and mental pain and suffering I am enduring and will continue to endure even after my appointment as I will need weaning off Oxynorm, all of which could have been avoided by a 30-minute visit to the day ward.
I await your response and plan for a solution to my intolerable situation