Cannabis and Pain

Shatter I made from a fantastic strain called Exorcist.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about cannabis and pain relief. To read some of these stories, one needs only to smoke a joint or eat an edible for pain relief. This is so misleading. Assume you had never had any cannabis before, knew nothing of it; if you read that in the news you could be forgiven for thinking then that any form of any strain of cannabis will do the trick...which is of course horse-shit of the highest order. Speaking to you from experience from both sides of the aisle (cannabis vs prescription narcotics under a doctors care), for cannabis to work, first you need a strain suited to what your personal needs are; this is no different than the doctor giving you a prescription for Med A and the next person Med B.

Next you really need to concentrate cannabis for it to be anything remotely like real medicine. There are many ways of doing this, from the simple to the complex, and from the cheap to hideously expensive. See my hash making article for one such method.

Finally, to really judge what the med is doing for you, stay away from eating it; you will be tempted to eat it with food and the instant you do that, a hundred other variables come into play, from what you ate it with to your personal metabolism. It can take hours for cannabis to have any real effect on the system sometimes when taken this way. Thus for the test of what this will do for you, you can concentrate it into hashish and smoke it or you can make BHO which is Butane Honey Oil, another way of extracting cannabis. I used this technique to make the above shatter from an amazing strain called Exorcist, made by a breeder I know in Michigan. This can be vaporized and the vapors inhaled. This is probably the cleanest/quickest method of ingestion right here. Thus even if you can't make this yourself, order shatter or similar (crumble, honeycomb, sap, badder, etc) as they all tend to concentrate it down to about 60-75% THC.

Note: you can "vape" the hashish as well, like any cannabis flower. And like vaping anything like that, it takes a bit of technique to get the most out of it. Vaping the shatter or "wax" is as near to fool-proof as you can get.

What can you expect using cannabis for pain relief?

I can tell you from personal experience that for certain types of pain, opiates can be necessary even with cannabis...however much can be dealt with using cannabis alone, and some kinds of pain only cannabis (or more to the point high CBD cannabis extracts) only cannabis can fix; opiates need not apply.

Lets take one of your most basic kinds of pain, a backache. Cannabis and opiates take a very different approach to dealing with pain...with opiates, they tend to handle about 70 or maybe 80% of the pain but also leave you lethargic and just happy not to move. Cannabis on the other hand will deal with maybe 50% of my pain directly but also leaves my brain/mind more active and I am able to use the same kind of mental toughness you develop as you mature for something bad enough to make you say "ouch" but definitely not bad enough to need further medication. In short, my pain is made very tolerable and I don't feel anchored to the couch/bed/whatever; I have a keen interest in the world around me and want to engage in it. I can appreciate a movie for example, or maybe read a book or something...something I definitely cannot do on opiates. Opiates muffle it, cannabis makes it more like that stubbed toe that may have bled for a second but you pushed it out of your mind (and it becomes less) so you can do whatever it is you are doing or want to do. Cannabis (right kind and strength) gives me that mental strength to do that with my arthritis most days, scoliosis every day but best yet, sciatica.

This is a zone where opiates simply need not apply: something that is inherently nerve-base pain. Norco, Vicodin, none of those work on nerve pain...not well, if at all. Cannabis, and specifically a high CBD/low THC extraction can turn that sciatica off like a light-switch, and until you aggravate it again, you are relatively pain-free, not a state I often find myself in when the sciatica acts up. The extract needs to be about an 18:1 ratio of CBD:THC. And because it is CBD and not high THC, there is no "buzz" or other feeling of euphoria, other than simple relief from the sciatica pain. When its bad, its hell.

So I suggest if you want to try a for-real test of cannabis and pain with your own problems, and if you are already familiar with cannabis in general, the above will probably get you to what you need to find at the dispensary or make it yourself. If not and you live in a legal state, go to the dispensary and ask to see all of their high CBD/low THC extracts and look for stuff in the 60-75% CBD range and between two and four percent THC. Pretty much all cannabis products now come with lab results. Only buy a half-gram of the extract until you know it will work (and you know how to work it).

Finally you get home, you have your meds and you think: what the hell is this plastic-looking shit and what am I to do with it? Well, the precise steps will be outlined in another article (plan some quickie tutorials on the basics for folks new to the herb) but basically it involves placing a "dab" of wax (shatter, crumble, badder, etc) on something hot which vaporizes it and you inhale the vapors. Some better methods of doing this are just around the corner but if you went out today and needed to "dab" as the kids say, this is the general plot. In my case, we keep a special tray with various extracts on it in tiny glass dishes. We take a glass or metal "straw", heat one end with a brulee torch and when its red-hot, you just touch the end to the wax and inhale. Usually only takes one hit, two on bad days. Oh and for those of you with nosy family members, doing it this way is the fastest method but also the cleanest; there is very little tell-tale odor afterwards (and after about a minute, none at all) and this odor smells nothing at all like cannabis.

Now I am going to share one additional way that using cannabis for pain is different than opiates. With opiates, you are given a strength of medicine that is supposed to help you on a daily basis. You are alotted only what you have, so if you are having a much worse day, you can't take a little more without messing up your pill schedule. In point of fact, the only way for the opiates to work optimally is if you had exactly the kind of pain opiates are better at AND you have the right strength as well. However being humans dealing with real life, some days need less meds to hand the pain and some days mean more meds are called for. The only way any prescribed opiate could possibly be effective is if you sat in a chair and did nothing all day, and when is that every going to happen?

With cannabis on the other hand you can take as little or as much as needed to get the job done. Overdosing is absolutely an impossibility with cannabis whereas its almost a given with opiates. I supposed the point I am trying to make here is that because of the way opiates work, they might be the right answer maybe 2-3 days in 7; the rest of the time its either too much or too little. With cannabis, you can always have the meds in the right amount to get the job done.

Thus I use cannabis for pain as much as I can; sometimes its simply too great and I am forced to reach for the opiates, but those days are fewer and farther between. I am glad I have the cannabis to fall back on simple because without it, I would be constantly in an undermedicated/overmedicated state, and thats no way to live life.

So if you wish to try to use cannabis as an alternative method of pain control I think it will work for you as long as you understand what it does and doesn't do. And in this current political climate, they could make another brain-dead arbitrary decision on forcing doctors not to treat patients with meds, having something outside their control (but still safe, safer than what they can control) can make the difference between a better physical and mental standard of living or living everyday with pain, with no hope for relief.



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