In the case of chronic pain, in addition to the physical dimension, there is a psychological injury, this weakening produced by the long – and unnecessary – struggle against this pain. The consequences of this weakening, lack sleep, inability to lead a normal life, often lead to depression. And to all this, there is also a tendency to consider that one must bear the pain – perhaps a subconscious legacy of a strict interpretation of Christian doctrine – and also that it is very frowned upon to complain.
However, conventional treatments for chronic pain, which have improved very slowly and almost always with aversion, must combine, at a minimum, analgesics with antidepressants to achieve a positive result. And despite all this, the figures are not very good.
Marijuana and pain
For more than twenty years now, the growing interest in medicinal marijuana has led to serious research into its potential in various treatments. The results are always very positive, especially for patients with cancer with considerable pain, but also for all types of neuropathological pain, such as those caused by multiple sclerosis, HIV and other diseases. Patients describe not only the partial or total disappearance of pain but also a great improvement in the quality of life.
It is that cannabis has a secret: its three “magic” powers against pain, a combination of virtues that no other known drug has, which would explain why it is so effective, where others fail.
Cannabis acts on the nervous system – as has been known since the discovery of the human body’s endocannabinoid system – by activating specific receptors (such as CB1), which interfere with pain signaling, both on the brain and spinal cord. Two of its components (THC and CBD ) are responsible for it, according to abundant recent studies on the subject. Also, it improves the patient’s general condition, relaxing muscles and promoting both appetite and sleep. Therefore, it is an analgesic.
Relaxation, eating, better sleep, undoubtedly improve the emotional response to pain. But cannabis also produces a positive mood alteration, a new mental disposition that can make people forget the pain and recharge the batteries to face it. In this sense, it is closer to a psychedelic drug, which transcends the usual limits of the psyche, presenting reality in a new light, than to a conventional analgesic. Ultimately, it is euphoric. It is a quality she shares with some of her colleagues in pain treatment, the opiates, who are also able to generate euphoria not only because of physical well-being but also because they are pain-free.
And it is precisely this euphoric property that hinders the authorities the most when it comes to prescribing these drugs more liberally: the fear of losing the perception of reality, the contact with psychological “normality”.
But cannabis has not yet revealed all its advantages.
In return for its euphoric character, cannabis also has an introspective dimension, a kind of tendency to get to the bottom of things, without concessions. This seriousness, capable of confronting us with our mistakes, with all the daily renunciations, is what Walter Benjamin called the “deafening feeling of suspicion and anguish”. It is a dark feeling, like a tribute paid for the euphoria felt before, but which fulfills an important function, by sending the patient back to his most raw reality, but, and this is undoubted, with a better physical and mental disposition.
Thus, cannabis would involve combining, in a single drug, an analgesic (pain relief), euphoria (a different state of mind, more positive in the face of the disease), and introspection (a necessary self-critique that reduces euphoria and reconnects with psychological routine, but without losing the general good mood).
These three powers are sufficient to justify the good results of cannabis use in the treatment of chronic pain.