If you live in Utah and you know you are about to experience significant acute pain as the result of an upcoming surgery, you may qualify to obtain a temporary medical cannabis card. A card would give you the opportunity to choose medical cannabis over prescription opioids to manage your pain. What would your choice be?
The Utahmarijuana.org website discusses chronic pain as a qualifying condition in the Beehive State. Like acute pain patients, chronic pain patients also have an alternative to prescription painkillers in medical cannabis. Would you be surprised to learn that chronic pain is the number one condition listed on Utah medical cannabis card applications?
A significant portion of those patients are choosing medical cannabis over prescription opioids. If you struggle to understand why, here are the top four reasons cited in a study conducted in 2021:
1. Less Severe Side Effects
Cannabis users chose their preferred drug because they believe it offers less severe side effects. No surprises there. Prescription opioids are known for all sorts of side effects that can be quite unpleasant. Whether it is an acute or chronic pain situation, patients want to avoid such side effects as much as possible.
A chief concern is often that opioids make you feel groggy and disconnected. You struggle to comprehend the world around you because the drugs fog the brain. A similar effect caused by cannabis is much less intense. And depending on how a patient uses cannabis, the sensation might be nearly indistinguishable.
2. Fewer Problems With Withdrawal
Most people who use cannabis long term do experience mild withdrawal symptoms should they stop. ‘Mild’ is the key word here. Any withdrawal symptoms a cannabis patient might experience pale in comparison to those linked with opioids. Opioid withdrawal can be very uncomfortable. In some cases, it can even be dangerous. Withdrawal is not nearly as problematic with cannabis.
3. Easier Access to Cannabis
Yet another reason for choosing medical cannabis over prescription painkillers is easier access. Prescription painkillers are narcotics. They are also controlled substances regulated by strict rules. Chronic pain patients who rely on them must jump through hoops to get and renew their prescriptions. Accessing medical cannabis is a lot easier.
As things currently stand, 38 states and the District of Columbia allow medical cannabis. In most cases, obtaining it is a matter of getting a state-issued card and then going to a dispensary to purchase. There are no prescriptions to renew. There are no hoops to jump through.
In addition, 18 states have legalized recreational marijuana. So even if a pain patient in one of those states does not want to make the effort to apply for a medical cannabis card, they can still purchase from the recreational market.
4. Better Outcomes
The fourth and final reason on the list is better outcomes. This could be the most important reason of all. The whole point of treating pain with medication is to get relief. That being the case, it only makes sense that people will choose the drug that offers the most relief, if given the opportunity to do so.
Clinical studies may not support medical cannabis as a pain treatment, but patients do. They say it helps. They say they get relief. Why would they not choose to use it if they believe it works better?
There are valid reasons to prefer medical cannabis over opioids as a pain treatment. It is time for the U.S. healthcare system to recognize that. There is no reason to continue relying solely on prescription painkillers when a valid alternative exists.