Patients’ Guide to Medical Marijuana for Neuropathy
A growing number of states are allowing medical marijuana for peripheral neuropathy and neuropathic pain. If you struggle with the constant pain, numbness, and weakness associated with this common condition, cannabis may help to provide the relief you’re looking for.
What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is caused by damage to the nerves along the brain and spinal cord—these nerves are known as peripheral nerves. Peripheral neuropathy can result in significant pain, numbness, and weakness, usually in the hands and feet but often in other parts of the body as well.
Peripheral neuropathy often results from a traumatic injury or infection, but it may also result from a metabolic condition like diabetes.
Because the peripheral nervous system is responsible for sending information from your brain and spine to the rest of your body, damage to these nerves can result in painful misfires. As a result, stabbing and burning sensations are common.
If you think you might have peripheral neuropathy, look for common signs and symptoms such as:
- Numbness, pain, or tingling in the feet or hands, which usually comes on gradually
- Sensitivity to touch
- Sudden stabbing or burning sensations
- Unexplained pain during everyday activities like placing weight on your feet
- Limited coordination
- Localized paralysis
If you notice any combination of these symptoms, speak to a doctor right away. There is no cure for peripheral neuropathy, but the pain can be reduced and managed with certain medications. Many patients are now turning to medical marijuana as an alternative to traditional drugs, but does it work?
Does Medical Marijuana Work for Neuropathy?
Researchers at the Center for Pain Medicine, University of California, San Diego, examined the existing body of research into the use of cannabis for neuropathy. The research comprised a range of patients from different walks of life and with different causes related to their neuropathy.
Multiple random controlled trials found cannabis to be as effective as common pharmaceutical drugs for treating neuropathic pain. Though these studies consisted of small sample sizes and were conducted over short durations, the results were consistent enough to suggest that cannabis may be safe and effective for addressing neuropathic pain. More research is still needed, but many states are already making cannabis available to neuropathy sufferers.
What Symptoms of Neuropathy Does Cannabis Treat?
The existing research suggests that cannabis may help to address a variety of common neuropathy symptoms, including:
- Chronic pain and discomfort
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Pain-related insomnia
Some of these symptoms were specifically addressed in the aforementioned clinical review, but other symptoms have been addressed in separate studies. For example, we know that cannabis may prevent excess sweating because studies have shown it to have a strong anticholinergic effect, and numerous other studies have uncovered potential anti-inflammatory effects.
How Cannabis May Help With Neuropathic Pain
Cannabis contains more than 100 cannabinoids, active compounds that work together and influence systems throughout the body. The best-known and most abundant cannabinoids are THC and CBD, which bind to and interact with the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors found in the brain and peripheral nervous system.
The main cannabinoid receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. When cannabinoids bind to these receptors, the receptors go to work to regulate the brain’s neurotransmitters and the body’s central nervous system. This is a major part of why cannabis appears to be so effective for addressing chronic pain and inflammation.
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What Is the Best Medical Marijuana Strain for Neuropathy?
Each strain has its own cannabinoid profile, so 50 mg of Jack Herer can have a significantly different effect than 50 mg of Blueberry Kush. Because some studies have highlighted cannabidiol (CBD) as being especially effective for addressing inflammation and neuropathic pain, you might want to focus on a high-CBD strain. Examples include:
- Jack Herer
- White Widow
- Sour Tsunami
You might need to try multiple strains until you find one that has precisely the desired effect without unwanted side effects. You can also speak with a physician who specializes in cannabis medicine.
Can You Just Use CBD Oil for Neuropathy?
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been identified for its potential neuropathy benefits as well as its general inflammation and pain relief potential. Because of this, you may find some relief from using CBD oil alone. If CBD oil doesn’t work to the extent that you hoped, you might find medical marijuana to be more efficacious. The combination of THC and CBD may work in concert to provide greater therapeutic relief than each cannabinoid on its own—a principal known as the entourage effect.
If you decide to try CBD oil, start with a low dosage, no more than 5 to 10 mg. Increase the dosage gradually as needed. Topical products, like lotions and creams, may be especially beneficial as you can apply them directly to the areas that need relief.
What Is the Appropriate Medical Marijuana Dosage for Neuropathy?
There are currently no widely accepted dosage recommendations when it comes to medical marijuana for neuropathy. A person’s tolerance can vary tremendously based on their gender, size, body fat content, and history with cannabis usage. You also need to be mindful of the cannabinoid profile.
In general, professionals recommend starting with a low dosage and increasing gradually as needed. For example, one study found 25 mg of cannabis with 9.4% THC to be effective for neuropathic pain when smoked three times a day over the course of five days. Your own experience may vary, so start small and adjust as needed.
Which Marijuana Delivery System Is Best for Neuropathy?
In the aforementioned clinical review, researchers found low-dose cannabis vaporization and oral mucosal delivery to be particularly safe and effective for neuropathic pain. With that in mind, you might want to try tinctures or vape oil, both of which offer a rapid delivery system into the bloodstream.
Tinctures are one of the easiest ways to consume cannabis. Just place a couple of drops of liquid under your tongue for about a minute, and allow the oil to be absorbed via your arterial blood supply. The effects are typically noticeable within minutes.
Vape oils enter the bloodstream via your respiratory system and are likewise fast-acting. If you’re already an experienced vaper or are curious about vaping, this may be an appealing solution to you. However, if you’re not experienced with vape pens or you’re concerned about the possible health effects of vaping, you might stick with tinctures or another delivery method.
Ultimately, you’re receiving the same cannabinoids whether you decide to smoke, vape, or swallow capsules, so it’s okay to stick with the delivery method that’s most comfortable for you. Just use caution before turning to edibles, as these can be far more potent and may come with unwanted side effects—especially for the inexperienced user.
Can Medical Marijuana Cure Peripheral Neuropathy?
Certain neuropathies can be cured, but not by cannabis or any conventional medications. If the neuropathy is caused by an underlying condition, you can sometimes eliminate the neuropathy by treating the cause. For example, if a herniated disc is pressing on the peripheral nerves, you can sometimes eliminate the neuropathy by having surgery to remove the disc.
For the majority of neuropathy sufferers, however, the best you can do is take steps to manage the symptoms. Medical marijuana has been shown to have similar efficacy to conventional drugs for the relief of pain and related symptoms, but it doesn’t carry the harsh long-term symptoms common with pharmaceutical drugs.
Which States Allow Medical Marijuana for Neuropathy?
The following states allow medical marijuana for peripheral neuropathy:
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
Other states may also approve a neuropathy patient at a physician’s discretion. For example, in the District of Columbia, physicians are able to approve medical marijuana for “any other condition that is chronic, cannot be effectively treated by ordinary medical measures, or, any condition for which treatment with medical marijuana would be beneficial, as determined by the patient’s physician.”
In addition, recreational cannabis is now permitted in 11 states and D.C. If you live in California, Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, or any of the other recreational states, you can access cannabis even if you don’t have a medical diagnosis or marijuana card.
Should I Use Medical Marijuana for Neuropathy?
If you struggle with the pain of peripheral neuropathy, you may benefit from medical marijuana, particularly if:
- You’re concerned about the side effects or long-term effects of conventional drugs
- Conventional drugs have proven ineffective at treating your neuropathic pain
- You can’t afford or don’t want to pay a premium for expensive pharmaceuticals
- You’re seeking a natural, alternative solution
- You live in a state where neuropathy is a qualifying condition or recreational cannabis is permitted
If you’d like to discover for yourself whether medical marijuana may be effective for your peripheral neuropathy, Green Health Docs may be able to assist. We have physicians located throughout the nation, including in states like Arkansas, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. We can even help you to obtain your medical marijuana card online in many cases. To get started, contact us at 1-877-242-0362 or schedule an appointment on our website.
You owe it to yourself to do everything possible to get your neuropathic pain under control. Don’t let it ruin your quality of life.