“The National Institute of Health (NIH) has concluded that neuropathic pain is a condition in which currently available pain medications are at best marginally effective.”
Neuropathy, a condition caused by nerve damage, can cause patients excruciating amounts of pain. Robert of Mill Valley, CA is one of those patients. He’s battling Neuropathy caused by his Diabetes. Here’s what he says…
I’ve had Diabetes for a while now. I’m experiencing some really horrid pain in my legs and feet because of it. My doctor tells me it’s because over the years the Diabetes has caused some nerve damage in my legs and feet.
The pain just creeped up on me out of nowhere. Initially, I was having pain here and there and didn’t make much of it, but now, it’s turned into a nuisance that won’t leave me alone, night or day. It’s relentless.
During the day, much of what I feel is numbness, but there are several times in the day when the numbness turns into a feeling of pins and needles stabbing my legs and feet. Then, there are other times when I feel like my legs and feet are on fire.
The pain won’t let me sleep either. I wake up in the middle of the night with this feeling of electrical shocks shooting down my legs. It’s painful to even have socks on.
It took a lot of trial and error to find a medication that helped. I have to tell you though the that process drove me nuts. After trying, Oxycodone, Tramadol, Nortriptyline, and Lyrica, we finally settled on Gabapentin.
The Gabapentin takes the edge off. Every once in awhile, it allows me to have a good day. On these days, I can remember what my life was like when I didn’t have the pain. Although I have to say that most days are bad days.
I’m still searching for a solution which can help me turn most of my bad days into good days. I’ve been putting my life on hold because this pain. It gets in the way of doing the activities that make me happy. I just want to spend my weekends playing golf again.
Have you found that medical marijuana helps patients with neuropathy?
Mill Valley, CA
Thank you so much for writing in.
So in your particular case you know that your Neuropathy stems from Diabetes, but in general it’s important to know that there are numerous causes of Neuropathy out there. Some of the more common causes of Neuropathy that I see in my practice are
nerve compression (sciatica)
carpal tunnel syndrome
complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
I’ve also treated cases of Idiopathic Neuropathy, which are situations in which the cause of the Neuropathy is not known.
I’m going to dive into what the research says about Medical Marijuana and Neuropathy and also the results I’ve seen in my own patients with Neuropathy that I’ve treated with medical marijuana.
Medical Marijuana for Neuropathy: The Research
In a study published in 2008 conducted in the United States, patients with complex regional pain syndrome, spinal cord injuries, peripheral neuropathy, or general nerve injuries were given either
- A. high strength marijuana
- B. low strength marijuana
- C. placebo
Overall, the results showed that both low and high strength marijuana relieved neuropathic pain compared to the placebo.
More specifically, it helped to reduce both the intensity of the pain, which is a measure of the physical response to pain. It also helped to reduce the the unpleasantness of the pain, which is a measure of the emotional response to pain.
According to one of the authors of this study, Dr. Barth Wilsey, from the VA Northern California Health Care System and the University of California, Davis Medical Center, “this study adds to a growing body of evidence that cannabis may be effective at ameliorating neuropathic pain and may be an alternative for patients who do not respond to or cannot tolerate other drugs.”
So there’s even more specific research on medical marijuana and neuropathy caused specifically by Diabetes.
In one particular study published in 2015 and also done in the United States, 16 patients who had had painful peripheral diabetic neuropathy for at least 6 months were given either
- A. high strength marijuana
- B. medium strength marijuana
- C. low strength marijuana
- D. placebo
After using the marijuana, the participants were asked to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10.
- A. The participants given the placebo rated their pain 1.2 points higher than the participants given high strength marijuana.
- B. The participants given placebo rated their pain .42 points higher than the participants given medium strength marijuana.
- C. The participants given the placebo rated their pain .44 points higher than the participants given low strength marijuana.
Another way the researchers looked at it was in terms of the percentage of reduction in pain.
- A. The participants given placebo had a 53% reduction in pain.
- B. The participants given low strength marijuana had a 64% reduction in pain.
- C. The participants given medium strength marijuana had a 65% reduction in pain.
- D. The participants given high strength marijuana had a 70% reduction in pain.
Medical Marijuana for Neuropathy: The Why
There are a couple reasons as to why medical marijuana may be helping to relieve the pain associated with Neuropathy.
For one, we know that there are receptors for the chemicals in marijuana (the cannabinoids) located along the pain pathways in the body. These pain pathways send signals to the brain that a certain part of the body hurts.
We also know from research in animals that when there’s a nerve injury, the body produces more receptors for cannabinoids-the chemicals in marijuana.
Medical Marijuana for Neuropathy: The Results
Now, onto the results I see in my patients. Chronic Pain is one the most common conditions that I treat. Within the category of chronic pain, neuropathy is one of the most causes of chronic pain that I treat.
When it comes to pain caused by neuropathy, I see results very similar to those that I see in patients that have pain in general.
It helps to either dull or eliminate my patients’ pain. The level of pain that my patients end up with by using medical marijuana depends a lot on their starting level of pain.
- Those in severe pain report moderate levels of pain with the use of medical marijuana,
- Those in moderate pain report mild levels of pain with the use of medical marijuana, and
- Those in mild pain report an elimination of pain with the use of medical marijuana.
For many patients, the use of medical marijuana also affect the use of their pain management medications.
- For some, it helps patients to reduce the use of their prescription medications. Either they’re able to cut back on the dosages of the prescription medications or they’re able to cut back on the number of prescription medications they’re taking for their chronic pain caused by neuropathy.
- In some cases, some of my patients are able to completely come off of the prescriptions medications they’re taking for the chronic pain caused by neuropathy. They’re able to manage the chronic pain caused by neuropathy with medical marijuana alone.
Overall, I’d say the vast majority of my patients report that the medical marijuana works as well as, if not better, than opioids, but without the side effects.
Ok, Robert. I just threw a boatload of information at you. Hopefully, it wasn’t too overwhelming. Of course you’re more than welcome to ask more questions for clarification in the comments section below.
Overall, though, I do hope you found this information helpful in deciding if medical marijuana is right for your Neuropathic Pain.
Would you like my help? Head on over to the GET HELP page, I’ll step-by-step walk you through how to safely use medical marijuana to help relieve your Neuropathy (Nerve pain).
- A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of cannabis cigarettes in neuropathic pain.
- Efficacy of Inhaled Cannabis on Painful Diabetic Neuropathy.