Cannabis and Chronic Pain

Do you (or someone you love) suffer from chronic pain? It’s hard to believe now, but until a few years ago, chronic pain was often dismissed as a minor concern or as a side effect of other underlying medical conditions. Given how persistent and potentially serious chronic pain is—and how many lives are affected by it—a growing number of clinicians now describe chronic pain as a condition unto itself.

At Vireo Health, we understand how debilitating chronic pain can be, and we have some hopeful news: As a growing number of clinical studies suggest, the use of medical marijuana for chronic pain is a gentle, safe, and sustainable approach to managing discomfort. 

The Types of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be very different for each of us and may be caused by tissue damage, inflammation, and/or neurological impairment. Chronic pain can make everyday tasks incredibly difficult, even near impossible, and can also have a significant negative impact on a patient’s mental health. 

To understand how using cannabis for chronic pain might work, we first have to understand the nature of pain itself. The current understanding is that there are three major types of pain:

  • Nociceptive Pain: Resulting from a physical injury; nociceptive pain is often treated with anti-inflammatory medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Neuropathic (or “Nerve”) Pain: Neuropathic pain can also be caused by a physical injury but may be related to conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, or shingles.
  • Central Pain: Sometimes called “mystery pain,” it occurs in the absence of a physical injury. One example is fibromyalgia, a difficult-to-diagnose condition.

Within each of these major classifications, the experience of pain can range from mild to severe. Patients may also experience one or more of these types of pain together.

Cannabis and Chronic Pain: How Cannabinoids Work

From the clinical perspective, the most plentiful compounds in cannabis are the cannabinoids, a group of natural chemicals, including THC and CBD, that interact with an important regulatory network: the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.

THC is the most prevalent cannabinoid and the one most directly responsible for the cannabis plant’s euphoric psychoactivity, or what’s commonly known as the “high.” But that’s not all; THC has been shown to potentially help us manage pain as well as regulate nausea and appetite, an important benefit for those undergoing chemotherapy and other challenging treatments.

Then there’s CBD. On a subjective level, CBD does not impart the same euphoria as THC. It is FDA-approved for pediatric use, particularly in helping quell certain types of seizures. In addition, current research supports that CBD imparts a wide range of potentially useful effects, including the ability to help us fight pain and inflammation, ease anxiety, and help us find better sleep.

Chronic pain affects a high number of Americans. As of 2023, some estimates put the number of adults in this country who suffer from chronic pain at about 71 million, or more than 20% of adults. Fortunately, both THC and CBD may be able to help.

Clinical studies suggest that THC helps relieve pain, both acting as an anti-inflammatory and leveraging its characteristic euphoric effect to help reduce the perception of pain’s severity. As for CBD, research shows CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory, reducing pain at injury sites by modulating the actions of local repair cells. In addition, CBD partners with signaling mechanisms in the brain, enhancing the actions of receptor cells and dampening the signals of pain as they arrive. 

Looking to the future of clinical research on cannabis for chronic pain, Vireo Health was involved with recruitment for the first NIH-funded long-term study to investigate whether treatment with medical marijuana can lead to a reduction in opioid use in adults with chronic pain. Under the guidance of principal investigator Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, this is sure to improve our understanding of medical marijuana safety and use in treating patients faced with debilitating pain and suffering.

Cannabis for Chronic Pain: Patients Now Have Options

We’re passionate about helping our patients regain their quality of life through the all-natural compounds found in cannabis. That’s one reason we developed the Vireo Spectrum™, a family of cutting-edge cannabis medicines. Because they’re color-coded by cannabinoid content, they provide a simple visual cue as to which one will offer you the best solution to your personal symptoms and conditions.

We are proud to support patients like Ann Marie Owens in the treatment of her chronic pain. We also support the ongoing efforts of organizations such as the Invisible Project – the flagship program of the U.S. Pain Foundation, which offers resources, programs, campaigns, and events that support and highlight the real stories of people living with pain.

Our medical team at Vireo Health has extensive experience supporting thousands of patients utilizing medical cannabis as a treatment. We utilize the latest scientific research, internal protocols, and our extensive experience to help you find your best medical cannabis treatment regimen. Click here to learn more about the wide variety of best-in-class medical marijuana from Vireo, which can be used to treat qualifying patients with chronic pain. We also conveniently offer delivery, online scheduling for patients as well as virtual consultations.

Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.


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