YANMD but I still a question
May 24, 2014 9:54 PM   Subscribe

I have difficulties with pain medications, either they flat out don't work -- taking opiates is like taking a sugar pill -- or they have freaky weird side effects. So I'm wondering would medicinal marijuana work on me?

So I have chronic pain issues -- fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraines, IBS, and some issues with inflammation. As I said above the fold, pain meds don't work, just flat out don't work. Just trust me on this, I've been in pain a long time... they don't work. It would be wonderful if they did, because it would make my life a lot easier, but they don't. When they do work (and they rarely do), I get freaky weird side effects that negate what little relief I get from them.

Anyway, the hubs and I are moving to Washington soon (for other reasons) and that got me to thinking... I wonder if marijuana would work on me? I've never tried it before (no... never... not once, ever, didn't even experiment in High School) so I have no idea if it would even have any affect at all. I know it's supposed to help with pain and inflammation, but given my track record with pain meds, I wonder if I should even try?
posted by patheral to Health & Fitness (25 answers total)
Well, I've never indulged, myself. But the likely worst case scenario is that you try it, it doesn't help your pain, and you get high but don't have a lot of fun. Unwanted side-effects can sometimes include a decrease in short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, reddening of the eyes,[10] and feelings of paranoia or anxiety.[12] - wikipedia. A more likely scenario is that it's a bit of a trip.

Sooooo... try it and see?
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:04 PM on May 24, 2014

I wonder if I should even try?

Sure, why not? Look to trying high-CBD strains, which tend to have a much less pronounced psychoactive effect while keeping pain-reducing and anti-inflammation qualities.
posted by rtha at 10:13 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure it isn't related to opiates, so definitely worth a try. You don't have to smoke it, so all the better for you. I know in Colorado, the pot retailers sell baked goods and candies, etc.
posted by annsunny at 10:18 PM on May 24, 2014

Cannabis works on different receptors in your central nervous system than opiates do. So I would say there is no reason why your tolerance to opiates should be related to whether cannabis works for you.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:23 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just want to point out that it's not just opiates that have no affect on me. NSAIDs also tend to either not work or they're the ones with strange side effects.

I attempted to read the link treehorn+bunny posted but at the moment it's over my head. I'll try again in the morning when I'm not so tired.
posted by patheral at 10:50 PM on May 24, 2014

Sorry, the link is probably too technical as it is a scientific paper.

Basically, all you need to know is that cannabis acts on cannabinoid receptors and opioids act on opioid receptors, and those are two different things in your body. I tried to use slightly more accessible links there for a lay person. The links explain how the different receptors cause different physiologic effects, which is why, for example, that marijuana gives you the munchies and morphine can cause you to stop breathing if you take too much.

Anecdotally, my experience as a physician is that many people with chronic pain issues such as fibromyalgia have similar feelings as you do towards NSAIDs and opiates, and that is why they tend to get on escalating and problematic doses of the opiate meds. Were I in a similar situation, I would certainly try medical marijuana to treat my pain.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:35 PM on May 24, 2014

Try it! It could be a great option for you. Many medical marijuana dispensaries will have suggestions about which strains are most effective in treating specific symptoms.
posted by quince at 11:57 PM on May 24, 2014

I have long-term back pain and neither NSAIDs or opiates work for me (both are ineffective for the pain plus opiates make me violently ill). Unfortunately I've also found that marijuana doesn't seem to help either (although I've smoked it for a long time, from before the pain started, not sure if that has any bearing). I'm not sure if it's just something to do with how my body metabolises things, so there's no reason to think that you'd have the same experience. And I don't use medical-grade marijuana, though it is organic. It's just to let you know that, for me, it doesn't really give me any specific pain relief although it does make my mood better and the high can be a welcome distraction. Kind of "the pain is still around but I don't care as much". I'd definitely say try it anyway because it won't hurt you, just maybe don't pin your hopes on it.
posted by billiebee at 2:54 AM on May 25, 2014

As someone with many of the exact same health conditions you list, plus some extra, MMJ was a godsend for me. I metabolize pain meds and anesthetics really rapidly, and the lower-strength ones, well, the docs don't like to give them to me unless I've broken something or just had surgery. Fine, whatever. So I use weed instead. It's AMAZING.

I second [third?] the suggestion for high CBD strains, and many dispensaries will help you to find a strain or two that's tailored to what you need. I have like... five? different strains in my stash right now, all for different things. One's for sleep, one's for pain that will give you couch lock, one's for pain that will still let you work, etc etc. You don't need to have that much around though if you don't want/need it, either, that's the beauty of it.

You also don't have to smoke it. There's candies, sauces, vaporizers [expensive, though], vapor pens [I have one because it looks like an e-cig, and so nobody bugs me when I pull it out while on the go], you can make brownies, fudge, whatever. Edibles are pretty good when you get the dosage correct because they look fairly innocuous, they taste nommy, and the delivery system can make the first impact a bit easier on the system.
posted by gloraelin at 3:48 AM on May 25, 2014

I don't suffer from chronic pain, so it's easy for me to say this, but I would be extremely wary of trying marijuana. You spoke of side-effects from your other drugs. Well, marijuana has bad side-effects, too -- including addiction and schizophrenia (naturally, there is a lot of dispute about both of these). I would try alternative, non-drug treatments first. If everything else fails, then maybe I would consider trying marijuana.
posted by alex1965 at 4:02 AM on May 25, 2014

The cannabis-schizophrenia link has had some debunking -- The results of the current study suggest that having an increased familial morbid risk for schizophrenia may be the underlying basis for schizophrenia in cannabis users and not cannabis use by itself. And that is one weird WebMD page for WebMD -- acupuncture?

Large multicenter clinical trails conducted in Germany {Linde et al., 2005; Melchart et, 2005; Haake et al, 2007, Witt et al, 2005), and in the United States {Cherkin et al, 2009) consistently revealed that verum (or true) acupuncture and sham acupuncture treatments are no different in decreasing pain levels across multiple chronic pain disorders: migraine, tension headache, low back pain, and osteoarthritis of the knee. via

Anyway, yes, I would give it a whirl. I have a number of joint problems and have taken it in capsule form at night and it's been a total game-changer, so to speak.
posted by kmennie at 4:40 AM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I began smoking recreationally last year, and found that relief from my chronic pain was a side effect. I haven't gotten a license for medical marijuana, but I hope to. There's no guarantee it will bring you relief— my neurologist was commenting to me recently that one very well-regarded medication that is considered to be extremely efficacious only brings relief to about 50% of people who try it. There's really no medication that works the same way and to the same degree for everybody. But medical marijuana is an experiment worth trying for you, I'd say.
posted by not that girl at 4:49 AM on May 25, 2014

If you would be open to trying another drug class offered by big pharma, I think it's worth trying MMJ.
posted by rosa at 5:47 AM on May 25, 2014

I've just gotten my MMJ license, and it's been a tremendous relief for my rheumatoid arthritis. I've played around with a bunch of the various kinds of edibles, and while I don't like being fuzzy during the day, the high-CBD types work pretty well and the indica types actually let me sleep when my joints are bad, which is a fucking godsend. I don't think there's much reason *not* to try it if you can do so legally where you are.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:25 AM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

One thing to keep in mind is that eating it is very different from smoking it (or vaping it). With smoking, the effects occur pretty rapidly, so you can pretty easily tell "Oh, here is the medicine taking effect, I will stop taking it now." When you eat it, the effects take longer to show up, so it can be easier to take more than is ideal; this is not dangerous, but it's not very pleasant. If you decide to go with lozenges or brownies or other edibles, eat just a little at first and then wait 20-30 minutes, then eat a little more if you feel you need to.
posted by rtha at 9:03 AM on May 25, 2014

Yeah, i should clarify that I do edibles not because it's necessarily the best option, but because I'm phobic about inhaling stuff. The edibles work just fine, but it's definitely harder to calibrate dosage and the effects last a long time, which isn't always ideal.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:19 AM on May 25, 2014

I forgot to mention in the OP that I also have asthma, so I'm guessing that, should I try this (I'm actually nervous about it... you know because it's been illegal for so long... social conditioning I guess), edible would be the way to go for me? I can't imagine that inhaling would do me any good.
posted by patheral at 9:29 AM on May 25, 2014

I have asthma too, and I've had good luck with an MJ tincture for both menstrual cramps and muscle aches (like after a long bike ride). It helps by both reducing the pain, and also making the pain easier to deal with psychologically. I just take a couple of drops in tea or juice. I think it would be worth a try for you. A lot of medical-marijuana doctors are just rubber-stampers, but you should be able to find a doctor or dispenser in WA who could discuss your symptoms in more detail.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 12:21 PM on May 25, 2014

Patheral, it honestly depends on the asthma reactions. I have asthma as well, although mine is good enough that it only flares when I'm sick. I have three basic ways I get my doses: smoking via a bong, vapor pen, and brownies. Obviously the brownies are the least lung-impacting, but for me even smoking hasn't been a problem other than the occasional coughing fit.

Heck, I have friends who swear that smoking weed helped their asthma by giving them lung capacity practice... but that's most definitely not any kind of scientific study.

Of course, like Nibbly Fang said, there are also tinctures. TBH the best best is going to be experimenting.
posted by gloraelin at 2:22 PM on May 25, 2014

For those mentioning- The link between marijuana and schizophrenia is solid for those who already suffer from the disease. Someone who has schizophrenia or is at risk for getting the disease (assuming it's in the genetic line) should definitely stay away from marijuana. It has a tendency to enhance psychosis and therefore it can potentially trigger a psychotic break in someone who already has a genetic link to the disease. However the studies saying that it may 'cause' schizophrenia in perfectly healthy people are dubious at best. If the OP has no risk of the disease it should be perfectly safe for him to use for his pain management. I say go for it, but try to practice mental meditation techniques to help with the pain as well. In my experience, if you take any substance long enough your body will become accustomed to it and you'll get the pain back anyway. Mental techniques can help with practice and there's no fear of the pain receptors becoming resistant.
posted by olivetree at 4:43 PM on May 25, 2014

Get a doctor's recommendation and try it. It really isn't different from any other medicine, it might work for you or it might not, but you won't know until you try.

One difference between street marijuana and medical marijuana is the existence of high-CBD strains. THC gets you high, CBD is non-psychoactive but lots of people have reported pain relief from it. It's worth trying both normal and high-CBD strains.
posted by zug at 5:00 PM on May 25, 2014

It's worth a try. I've got stage 4 cancer, had 16 doses of chemo between November and March and the residual joint pain I'm dealing with right now is brutal. Because of liver issues, I can't take any OTC med except acetaminophen for pain relief and my step up med is Vicodin, which I hate with the fire of a thousand suns.

Edibles come on gentle and last for a while, during which the pain in my joints goes from a 7-8 to a 1-2, if it remains at all. Pot has been a lifesaver because it relieves both physical pain and anxiety for me.

Should you decide to eat rather than smoke, let me co-sign rtha's advice to eat a little bit at first and give it some time before you decide you need more. Also, since you've never tried pot at all, it might not be a bad idea to ask a more experienced friend to join you for your first time so you don't get anxious.

Hope you find some relief.
posted by deliciae at 10:50 PM on May 25, 2014

Thanks, y'all. Once I get up to Washington, I'll ask whatever doctor up there about it. This chronic pain is for the birds. ^_^
posted by patheral at 8:27 AM on May 26, 2014

Just a quick update that might be relevant. So my doctor put me on diazepam yesterday as an experiment. I know it's not cannabis but it's not opiates or NSAIDS either. I tried it. I tried it twice (several hours apart) and... nothing. Not a damned thing. No drowsiness. No muscles relaxing. No pain relief. Nothing. Again, it was like taking a sugar pill.

I honestly don't even know if it will be worth the hassle of trying cannabis. Right now, I'm resigned to just being in pain every day. I'm over it.
posted by patheral at 11:47 AM on May 31, 2014

Well, one thing about grass is that it doesn't really have an upper limit like most medications. If you take too much of most pills, you will end up with a problem; if you toke too much doobage, you will end up with a nap. If you are a person who requires high dosages, there isn't really a problem with experimenting with high dosages there.
posted by kmennie at 4:08 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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