It is no secret that the leading complaint among people seeking Medical Cannabis Cards in Utah is pain. In fact, pain is the leading motivator for Medical Cannabis consumption across the country. So it’s understandable that a patient would want to know if the drug could help with their particular type of pain. One we hear a lot about is treatment for migraine pain.
Migraine headaches are among the most painful. Unfortunately, pain isn’t the only symptom. Migraine sufferers also complain of light and noise sensitivity, nausea, and even auras (visual disturbances). A migraine headache is not a pleasant experience.
The question for many is whether Medical Cannabis can alleviate or prevent the symptoms. We don’t know about prevention, but a number of studies look promising for symptom alleviation.
Have you ever wondered how people used cannabis before it was outlawed in the 1970s? We did a little digging and discovered some interesting things. For instance, there was a period of roughly 100 years – between 1848 and 1948 – when cannabis was a preferred medication for migraine.
Johns Hopkins medical school founder William Osler was reported to have used cannabis for migraines. Likewise for England’s renowned neurologist William Gowers.
Unfortunately, cannabis has never undergone the type of clinical scrutiny necessary to convince the FDA and DOJ that it is an effective medication. Most of the studies conducted so far have been observational studies, meaning researchers gathered data by conducting surveys.
Despite being observational, the small number of studies we can still look at are promising. One study published in 2019 showed that almost half of the migraine patients who were treated with THC or CBD reported less severe migraine pain following treatment. There were some downsides, including THC tolerance that resulted in rebound headaches, but the patients in that study were self-medicating. We might be able to achieve better results through prescriptions managed by doctors.
Moving on to another study published in 2020, researchers discovered that some of their subjects responded to cannabis while others did not. Among those that did, they reported 50% fewer migraine attacks than the nonresponsive group. We are guessing anyone suffering from regular migraines would welcome the opportunity to cut their attacks in half.
The data we currently have about cannabis as a migraine treatment is promising, but not definitive. Would it work for you? We cannot say one way or the other. The best advice we can offer is that you sit down and talk it over with your medical provider. Tell your provider how you feel, how severe your migraines are, and why you think Medical Cannabis might help.
We at least know enough about cannabis to suggest it can be helpful for people dealing with chronic pain. The state legislature recognizes the same thing, which is why chronic pain has been on the qualifying conditions list since day one.
You might also be happy to know that acute pain was added to the list during the 2022 legislative session. Certain types of acute pain now qualify for Medical Cannabis as long as a few conditions are met. So if acute pain is something you are worried about, be sure to talk it over with your medical provider.
In closing, we just want to remind new readers that the state requires possession of a valid Medical Cannabis Card to purchase medications at a Utah pharmacy. We can help you get your card. Just make an appointment to see us at any of our Utah clinics.
Here at Utahmarijuana.org, we strongly encourage Medical Cannabis patients to work closely with their QMP (Qualified Medical Providers) and PMP (Pharmacy Medical Providers) to determine the best possible dosage and delivery method. We also encourage patients to continually consult with their providers throughout the Medical Cannabis journey. This post will explain why.
For starters, the whole point of Utah’s Medical Cannabis program is to give patients access to an alternative medicine. And if cannabis is a medicine, it should be treated like one.
Every other prescription medication a person takes is prescribed by doctors who have a specific goal in mind. It is dispensed by pharmacists who know what effect the drug will have on the patient.
Patients routinely consult with their doctors and pharmacists to make sure they are using their prescription medications the right way. Why would it be different with Medical Cannabis? Things shouldn’t be any different. That leads us to the number one reason patients should work closely with their QMP and PMP: the risk of overconsumption.
To date, there have been no reports of cannabis users overdosing and dying from too much THC. Numerous studies have failed to identify a lethal dose of the cannabinoid for human beings. But all that said, it is possible to use too much THC during a given amount of time. In other words, overconsumption is possible.
When overconsumption occurs, it can result in unpleasant symptoms that can include:
In some cases, people experience confusion, paranoia, and hallucinations. They are the exception to the rule. For most people, overconsumption leads to the more prominent physical symptoms. They are not life-threatening, but they can be awfully scary.
THC overconsumption can make you feel bad enough that you want to run off to the emergency room. You will recover and life will go back to normal. But what about the mental and emotional fallout? One bad experience could give you the wrong impression of THC. A wrong impression could dissuade you from using Medical Cannabis in the future, possibly denying you a treatment option that would have been otherwise helpful.
It is often said that Medical Cannabis is as much a journey as it is a medication. We don’t disagree. Medical Cannabis is somewhat unique in the sense that we don’t yet have enough science to actually come up with defined prescription standards similar to those that apply to things like antibiotics and blood pressure medications.
This ultimately leads to the reality that patient and medical provider need to work together to figure things out. It means that every new patient needs to go through a period of trial and error before homing in on the best delivery methods and dosages. Their PMP and QMP are hopefully there to help guide them through.
Knowing what we know about the Medical Cannabis journey and the potential for over consumption, we urge patients to always track their consumption. Make a record of when you use, how much you use, your delivery method, and how it made you feel. That information is invaluable to your PMP as they help you figure things out.
Although there is no known lethal dose of THC for human beings, over consumption is possible. The risk of consuming too much in too short a time is the number one reason for working closely with your QMP and PMP throughout your Medical Cannabis journey.
We are always on the lookout for new study data demonstrating whether Medical Cannabis is a truly effective medicine. We are happy to report that a recently released study out of Florida State University (FSU) seems to suggest that cannabis is a possible substitute for opioids as pain medications.
If subsequent studies find the same thing, we will not need to say just how big it will be. Anyone who has used opioid pain medications and had a bad experience would probably welcome an alternative painkiller. If that alternative is cannabis, then having more than three-dozen states with Medical Cannabis programs in place puts us ahead in the game.
The survey study asked some 2,100 participants about their use of both opioid medications and Medical Cannabis. Researchers gathered data on patients using cannabis to treat:
Not surprisingly, nearly 89% of the respondents said that medical cannabis consumption was “important to their quality of life.” They said it was either “very” or “extremely” helpful in treating their conditions.
We should also point out that more than 60% of the respondents had been taking opioid medications prior to being offered Medical Cannabis. Some 79% were able to either reduce or completely eliminate the opioids.
All of that is good news, but we’re not done yet. The survey also showed that:
The primary side effects reported by survey respondents included drowsiness, dry mouth, and increased appetite.
As far as observational studies go, this was pretty definitive. It’s not like we’re hovering on the border at 50-50. We are talking percentages in the high 80s which, under most circumstances, would amount to definitive proof. The only reason we cannot deem this study conclusive is its observational nature. We need clinical studies to do that.
Still, the study gives us a lot of confidence in helping patients who come to us with using Medical Cannabis to manage chronic or acute pain. While we’re talking about it, let’s discuss acute pain in more detail.
If you are not intimately familiar with Utah’s qualifying conditions list, you should know that acute pain was added during the 2022 legislative session. Acute pain can now be treated with Medical Cannabis under certain circumstances.
We will not get into the details here but imagine scheduling knee replacement surgery for later this year. As long as your medical provider was willing, and your circumstances met the conditions, you could utilize Medical Cannabis during your recovery as a substitute for opioids.
We think that’s huge. Why? Because we have talked to a lot of patients who have come looking for their Medical Cannabis Cards because they were tired of the way opioids made them feel. Given the highly addictive nature of most opioids, recommending cannabis as a substitute for opioids seems like a no-brainer.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic has practically disappeared from our cultural radar. If nothing else, the FSU study is a reminder that the opioid epidemic still exists. It also provides compelling evidence that Medical Cannabis can be an amazingly effective tool in fighting the opioid problem.
If you are currently taking opioid meds and would rather find an alternative, make an appointment to visit any one of our clinics. We can help you obtain your Medical Cannabis Card so that you can take an honest shot at getting off those opioids.
We have been privileged to work with countless patients wanting to get their Utah Medical Cannabis Cards. In so many cases, these patients have tried other medications to treat everything from chronic pain to PTSD. They have chosen to turn to Medical Cannabis over other meds because those other therapies have not worked.
How about you? Do you use Medical Cannabis as a substitute for other meds? If so, you are not alone. Searching for alternatives to traditional prescription medications is a common theme among many of the patients we see. It also seems to be a theme consistent across the country; it is not confined just to Utah.
We did a little digging around and found a fascinating study published in November 2021. It showed that women were more likely to use cannabis in place of other prescription meds. The research was conducted as a survey study by The Cannigma.
They surveyed more than three hundred respondents about their prescription meds and cannabis habits. They discovered that 72% of the women reported using cannabis as a prescription med substitute. By contrast, only 55.5% of the men reported doing so.
Combining both groups reveals that 65% use cannabis as an alternative to other prescription meds. That is a clear majority no matter how you divide up the demographics.
One of the more fascinating aspects of the study is that it did not isolate Medical Cannabis users from their recreational counterparts. An entire cross-section of consumers was surveyed. That makes a difference with some of the other findings the survey revealed.
For example, Medical Cannabis users generally reported using it more than once per day. They also reported more frequent use days throughout the week. In a nutshell, those who use cannabis for therapeutic reasons tend to use more of it more often. No surprises there.
The Cannigma study confirms many of the things we have believed about Medical Cannabis for years. At the top of the list is the fact that a lot of patients finally turn to cannabis when other things don’t work. They absolutely should.
At the risk of sounding pious, we believe that Western medicine has taken the wrong approach toward cannabis for far too long. Cannabis doesn’t fit with Western medicine’s narrative, so it gets ignored or outright vilified. How disappointing is that?
We often work with countless chronic pain patients who have tried everything their doctors recommended. They have tried OTC pain medications and stronger opioid prescriptions. They have tried physical therapy, lifestyle changes, dietary changes, etc.
For many of them, Medical Cannabis is a measure of last resort. That’s not the way it should be. Medical Cannabis should be on the table as a treatment option from the very start.
We are happy to say that we have seen some impressive results among many of our patients. For example, we have seen lots of reports of patients completely giving up their prescription opioids after getting into a stable Medical Cannabis regimen. If you’re looking for a way to measure the success of cannabis therapy, freeing people from the clutches of opioids would be a good place to start.
As for why women are more likely than men to use Medical Cannabis as a substitute for other prescription meds, there is no clear answer. It could be that women are just more willing to try alternatives. Who knows? The fact is that the majority of Medical Cannabis patients have turned to it as a substitute for other therapies. That’s what’s important.
Blake Draper is a beneficiary of Utah Therapeutic Health Center’s Uplift program, which subsidizes Medical Cannabis evaluations for qualifying patients in need. Listen to what Blake has to say about his quality of life after joining Uplift.
To join Uplift, or to make a donation, visit https://dev.utahmarijuana.org/uplift
All community donations are matched up to 600% by UTTHC and its partners.
At Utah Therapeutic Health Center (UTTHC), we believe no patient should be left suffering simply due to low income. That’s why we launched the Uplift program—to help provide access to those who can’t afford vital cannabis treatment on their own. So far, Uplift has subsidized Medical Cannabis evaluations for more than 280 people.