Cannabis-derived products are the best available treatment for pain management in my opinion. I have worked with people and animals with chronic pain, and cannabis is the most effective treatment I have found. Nature provided us with a super drug, and it’s a shame more people can’t access it for pain relief.
The potential medicinal benefits of cannabis products are too promising and too significant not to encourage their use. As an advocate for the legalization of cannabis, including legalized medical marijuana, I believe it is a crime that this plant is off-limits to the people who need it most. That’s why Fibromyalgia editor asked me to write this article. Specifically, he invited me to talk about one form of cannabis products ideal for pain and fibro management: marijuana edibles.
For those who are new to cannabis use for pain management, there is a small amount of essential knowledge worth possessing. First, I think it’s important for people to know what two chemicals in cannabis help reduce or eliminate pain in patients. These two compounds have different effects on the body. Second, it’s important to know what to expect from each of these chemicals and why some prefer one to the other.
CBD VS THC
Firstly, let’s talk about cannabidiol, also known as CBD. Patients who are looking for effective pain relief without the sense of being “high” from cannabis reach for CBD. Some patients also experience reduced anxiety and increased appetite from using CBD, while others might not get the additional therapeutic effects. Additionally, CBD products such as CBD Oil can also be used to come down off of a high from psychoactive effects.
Secondly, it’s crucial to discuss THC in marijuana products. Users of THC, as opposed to CBD alone, traditionally benefit from increased pain relief, which makes cannabis products containing THC very promising treatment options for fibro patients and other chronic pain sufferers. THC users may also experience many beneficial side effects, such as help sleeping, mood enhancement, and an increased appetite. Some cannabis strains can help alleviate anxiety. Conversely, the opposite can also be right, so it’s best to ask for help from a professional budtender or doctor in finding the best cannabis strains for fibromyalgia. THC will likely get users high, meaning users need to prepare for those effects.
Marijuana edibles are ingestible cannabis-derived products available in myriad forms, such as chocolates, hard candies, lollipops, beverages, cakes, tinctures, and gummies. Of all cannabis products used recreationally and medically, marijuana edibles’ effects last the longest and are the easiest to use, and it’s because of those two qualities that so many chronic pain patients reach for ingestible marijuana before other forms.
The most prominent advantage of marijuana edibles over other forms of cannabis is the duration of its effect. For chronic pain patients, this can be a life-changer. Whereas smoked marijuana will provide relief for as short a period as an hour, marijuana edibles routinely offer reduced pain for eight hours or more. More than anything, reducing the number of times people need to seek relief from pain can have a profound impact on the quality of their lives, making it easier to leave the house, take part in family activities, and even make exercising an option for those whose pain would otherwise limit them.
All of the products listed above, from chocolates to tinctures, offer longer-term pain relief than smoking cannabis products, but it’s the chocolates, candies, and cakes that perform best in that regard. With that said, tinctures provide faster relief, making them an appealing choice for those with sudden onset pain.
For those familiar with cannabis from their younger days, long before ingestibles were available from purveyors, it’s worth noting that edibles are noticeably more potent than what you are probably used to, and the saying “a little bit goes a long way” holds true. Consider that yet another reason why edibles are perfect for fibro patients. For extreme pain, the efficiency and efficacy of THC and CBD in edibles can be life-altering—in the right way!
Cannabis edibles are available with both CBD and THC in them. Products containing only CBD can last anywhere from eight to twelve hours, with some people experiencing significantly longer or shorter periods of relief; the same goes for THC products.
When deciding to use cannabis edibles containing THC, I recommend people begin with a 5 mg dose, or half of one regular serving from most authorized cannabis retailers. For all food products, it may take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours before the pain relief takes effect. Tinctures may work in as little as fifteen minutes, but anecdotal evidence suggests that a 30-minute wait is more likely.
Once the edibles take effect, patients should feel relief from pain for several hours. Other benefits may include, but are not limited to, an increase in appetite, improved sleep, a reduction in muscle cramps, and an enhanced mood. Some also get relief from nausea, irritability, and other fibro symptoms. In men, cannabis can also increase one’s libido, though excessive use can alternatively lead to temporary and reversible erectile dysfunction. All of these issues are but the start of the challenges fibro sufferers face, but the fact that one type of medicine can provide relief for several symptoms of fibromyalgia while avoiding the challenging side effects of traditional pain management is why so many fibro patients are making the switch from conventional pharmaceuticals to cannabis-based treatments.
Edible Marijuana Side Effects
As with all medicines, a minority of patients may encounter unpleasant side effects, such as:
- Anxiety & paranoia
- Mental fogginess
- Excessive drowsiness
- Difficulties concentrating
Individually, these may already be symptoms fibromyalgia patients are suffering from, and the use of cannabis may exacerbate these issues to the point that CBD and THC are not appropriate treatment options. All of these side effects have been associated more with THC than CBD. If anxiety is of concern, it would be wise to start with CBD products before trying those with THC.
For many, the fast-acting properties of inhaled marijuana smoke overshadow the usefulness of edibles, but that doesn’t mean everyone who suffers from fibromyalgia cannot still benefit from edible use. If sudden onset pain is a symptom of your fibromyalgia, edibles are still invaluable. After smoking cannabis for nearly instantaneous relief, professionals and experienced users alike may still recommend following that up with a small dose of marijuana via edibles for longer-term pain reduction. The use of one type of cannabis product should not in any way limit the use of others. Additionally, for others, difficulty breathing may be one of the more challenging ailments that come with a fibro diagnosis, making edibles the most suitable—or only—choice.
Perhaps one of the best “side effects” of cannabis products is their ability to assist people in both falling and staying asleep, another prominent challenge with fibromyalgia patients must contend. Traditionally, edibles are superior to inhaled cannabis options for ensuring a full night of sleep. A dose of marijuana about an hour before bed helps many people stay asleep through the night, despite hot flashes, restless legs, excruciating back pain, excessive itching, and the general inability to get the much-needed REM sleep that is too elusive for too many fibro patients. Even with fibro patients for whom pain is not their central struggle, cannabis edibles can still be an active form of treatment. As a sleep aid, both CBD and THC can be equally effective.
As any seasoned cannabis user can tell you, and which pop culture continually reminds us, marijuana may cause the munchies, or the intense desire to shove our faces full of as much food as possible. While it’s not the most common struggle associated with fibromyalgia, some patients fight to maintain their appetite, thus causing other problems for them, such as more extended periods of fibro fogs, lethargy, muscle cramping, and more. If keeping a healthy diet due to lack of appetite is a concern for you, cannabis edibles are often an option for improving appetite and energy levels throughout the day. When it comes to appetite improvement, THC is superior to CBD.
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If your appetite is healthy, THC (not CBD) may also increase your metabolism, meaning that even if you eat more as a result of having the munchies, there is the chance that you will lose weight. As pain and lack of mobility lead to weight gain in some fibro patients (which makes the symptoms worse across the board), THC can be a useful weapon in the arsenal for maintaining a healthy body composition without diet overhauls or unsustainable exercise.
Personal and anecdotal experiences tell me that too much THC does not lead to unhealthy weight loss. Our bodies seem to have an innate ability to know what our healthy weight is and work to achieve that, in this case with the aid of THC. I saw as my husband lost thirty pounds, plateauing at what his physician called an “ideal weight,” achieved without dieting or increasing exercise.
Using Marijuana Edibles for the First Time
When speaking with people about using edibles for the first time, I have several recommendations that I am going to share here.
- Start with a low dose, 5 mg to 10 mg, and wait at least two hours before taking more. Pain relief is routinely achieved at lower doses, well before getting high.
- Plan to take the next day off from work and other obligations. Some people (like my husband) can experience a hangover-like effect the next day after the first few doses of edibles or after an unusually large treatment (20 mg-50 mg).
- Have someone sober nearby or whom you can call in case you have an adverse effect.
- Do not drive. At all. Period.
- Keep CBD flower (actual marijuana) to smoke should you experience too much of a good thing with THC. CBD has been shown to reduce the high people feel from THC without sacrificing medicinal benefits.
- Before falling asleep, get in a comfortable position, as your body may not move much during sleep. Nothing is worse than waking up with your body contorted into unnatural resting positions.
Cannabis edibles are one of the best forms of pain management on the planet, and responsible and smart use of these products make cannabis far safer than opioids, barbiturates, and other pharmaceuticals prescribed by doctors. While marijuana does not cause a physical addiction, some users are susceptible to developing a habit of using cannabis, specifically smoking. The use of edibles in place of smoking should limit the risk of forming a habit or psychological addiction.
All forms of cannabis and cannabis-derived products are an effective forms of treatment for pain management. Luckily for fibro patients, the plant will also alleviate other symptoms that commonly cause a degradation of life. While not the quickest acting agents for pain relief, cannabis edibles will provide the most protracted and best-sustained relief with relatively few and easily managed side effects, and when used responsibly, run a much lower risk of leading to habit formation, addiction, and abuse.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and getting cannabis-derived medicines is difficult. Marijuana edibles, which do not have a strong odor, are a much more discreet and easily-hidden way to leverage the marijuana’s medicinal value in spite of the law, not to imply that Fibromyalgia or anyone else is advocating breaking the law. (We can, however, make the knowledge available to those who need it.) They can be found at legal dispensaries in all states where cannabis sales have not been limited. Most cannabis edibles are sold in either 80 mg or 100 mg containers, with 10 mg representing the standard dose. These can run between $15 and $30 dollars, with most falling around $20, or $1-$2 per dose.
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Whether or not you consider cannabis a viable option for reducing and treating chronic pain, the potential good that comes from the plant is worth better understanding. Marijuana, like any other medicine, is not suitable for everyone, and people will have vastly different experiences while using it. That said, the side effects of cannabis use are almost always temporary, easily managed, and far less disruptive than the sedation and lack of efficacy of traditional pharmaceuticals. If smoking pot isn’t your cup of tea, but you still want to benefit from the medicine, edibles are an option worth considering. They are long-lasting, have almost no long-term side effects with responsible use, and they treat many different symptoms fibro patients are forced to overcome. Anything that reduces pain and helps people sleep soundly probably seems like a panacea for fibromyalgia sufferers, but it’s not. Fibromyalgia is a complex and challenging disease to understand, and treatment is never going to be easy. But with cannabis as an option, many people finally have a path forward to being able to live their lives again like they used to. Everyone should have that opportunity.
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