Severe chronic pain is usually treated with opiates, but these are addictive, and tolerance develops so that the dose has to be increased. The risk of severe side effects is great, and additionally the user feels drugged, and finds it difficult to function properly. Family life may suffer as patients find it hard to relate to other people, and even reading to children is difficult. Synthetic analgesics are non-addictive but they are not powerful enough.
Cannabis has fewer side effects than other analgesics, and users report it “rounds off” the pain quickly after smoking. Some people have used it to control pain for 20 years or more, and many report that they were able to kick their addiction to opiates with small amounts of cannabis. One strange fact is that more experienced users get a greater pain-relieving effect from cannabis than novices. Experienced users also are able to function normally and ignore the psychoactive effects. Cannabis may be better at controlling the different types of pain.
Cannabis has had a long history of use as an analgesic, and was widely used in 19th century Britain, including in the royal household. Dr. J. Russell Reynolds, Fellow of the Royal Society and Physician to Queen Victoria reported in the Lancet in 1890 that he had been prescribing cannabis for 30 years and considered it “one of the most valuable medicines we possess”. According to Reynolds indian hemp remained effective as an analgesic for months and even years without an increase in the dose.
- Pain and Cannabis