Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants. Three species of cannabis with psychoactive properties have been recognized; Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. It is usually consumed for its relaxing and calming effects. Use of cannabis is also prescribed to help with various medical conditions, including chronic pain, glaucoma, and poor appetite. Patients can use cannabis for neuropathy as an alternative or adjunctive treatment, if their current mode of treatment isn’t working. Even though it is considered natural, it still has strong effects, and in some cases they can be both positive or negative depending on the individual.
Cannabis sativa has been used as an analgesic for centuries. The plant contains more than 400 chemical compounds and is often used for its euphoric properties. However, long-term use may lead to cognitive impairment and addiction.
The plant contains many components, but the two main cannabinoids with analgesic effects are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). There are also other cannabinoids, such as CBN.
THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. Its effects include relaxation, altered perception, heightened sensations, increased libido, and perceptual distortions of time and space. Temporary effects may include decreased short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor function, conjunctival injection (redness of the eyes), paranoia, and anxiety.
CBD is non-psychoactive and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation without inebriation.
Other compounds in the cannabis plant include phytocannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenoids, which may produce individual, interactive, or synergistic effects. The different stages of flowering produce varying amounts of each type of chemical.
Due to its benefits, some states have legalized recreational cannabis in the U.S. These include Colorado, Michigan, Oregon, Alaska, Washington, and California. The idea behind legalizing recreational use of cannabis is to make it social thereby minimizing its potential to be abused.
Neuropathy and Dosage
Cannabis has been shown to be a potential treatment for neuropathy. This is the damage or dysfunction of one or more nerves that typically result in numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and pain in the affected area. Neuropathy, often called peripheral neuropathy, indicates a problem within the peripheral nervous system. Peripheral neuropathy is a complex, chronic disorder that occurs when damaged, dysfunctional or injured nerves send incorrect pain signals to the brain. Common causes include diabetes, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection and autoimmune diseases. Other causes include toxicity from chemotherapy and heavy metals.
So, how does cannabis treat nerve damage? Cannabis has been deemed a neuro-regenerator, neuro-protector, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties it decreases neuropathic pain. Many nerve disorders occur due to the neurotransmitters GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) and glutamate being out of balance. CBD is effective in treating these disorders due to its ability to normalize glutamate homeostasis bringing signaling transmission into regulation. Restoration of healthy GABA and glutamate transmissions will make one feel less nerve pain because signaling is working appropriately.
When choosing the right dosage of THC to CBD ratio to treat neuropathy, it is seen that most people respond well to a high CBD ratio such as a 1:4 or a 1:20.
Having a little bit of THC involved causes synergy and increases the effect of both the cannabinoids. The high CBD count reduces inflammation and lowers the production of cytokines, making it easy to use during the day as it does not disorient you or inhibit your short-term memory.
A high THC ratio of 20:1 works well to change the pain perception of the body. CBD acts as the regulator and THC as the rescuer. THC is often administered at night to prevent its psychoactive abilities from hindering daily projects, such as driving or concentrating.
If side effects are unpleasant, using it at night is recommended since one may sleep the effects off. In addition, THC can also help patients sleep better. Therefore, patients may opt to use a high CBD dosage in the morning and a high THC dosage at night. It is best to be sure you are receiving both cannabinoids when dealing with neuropathies.
Recreational Cannabis is used for personal enjoyment rather than for health purposes. While limited recreational cannabis use is often believed to avoid adverse health effects, it is essential to remember that smoke inhalation is always harmful.
Cannabis has shown promising results for treating peripheral neuropathy including pain reduction, better sleep and improved function, even with patients whose pain responds poorly to standard treatments.
However, its use may be restricted due to its cognitive and psychiatric adverse effects, especially at high doses.
Different strains of cannabis have varying amounts of individual components, making comparisons among clinical studies difficult. Although current research has indicated an analgesic effect of cannabis, further investigation is needed to evaluate its long-term safety and efficacy.