So, Doctor … What Do You Think About Marijuana?

At least once a week, we hear this question at Balcones Pain Consultants. That’s understandable because half the states in our country have authorized doctors to prescribe cannabis products for pain relief (and more states legalize or decriminalize its recreational use).

Legislation to legalize at least some marijuana use for pain relief may be considered in the Texas Legislature in 2017, but the likelihood of it passing and being approved by Gov. Greg Abbott appears slim. However, patients suffering from severe ailments and injuries might be tempted to procure marijuana in another state and (illegally) bring it home.

Does marijuana work? Or might it do more harm than good?

A recent study by the U.S. Surgeon General provides an updated overview of all substance misuse in America, ranging from alcohol to prescription medications to methamphetamines. Therein is a close look at what’s known today about marijuana.

Key points in the report note what we still don’t know:

  • Patients may not get accurate, research-based guidance on marijuana dosage and potency for their pain. This may lead to serious consequences, such as hospitalization for psychosis or other overdose-related reactions.
  • Potency varies widely among different marijuana products (and on average potency has more than doubled between 1998 and 2008).
  • There are more ways to consume marijuana – and how it’s consumed can impact dosage. Besides smoking, patients can now consume edible forms (examples: baked goods, candies), “vape” it and “dab” oils and extracts.
  • Lessons learned from products long legal but too often misused – alcohol and tobacco –have not yet been fully researched for marijuana.

Meanwhile, the FDA has approved three medications with synthetically derived, active cannabis ingredients and is fast-tracking proposed marijuana-related treatments for pain associated with advanced cancer, several types of epilepsy, brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation at birth and other medical issues. Clinical investigations are under way for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and some types of seizures with cannabis.

The upshot: We really don’t know enough yet. Until we do, various, proven treatments to alleviate chronic pain are available and we’re happy to answer any of your questions.