According to U.K. practitioners, medical marijuana should be optimized over conventional pain relief.
A recent draft guideline for chronic pain published by the U.K. National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence (NICE) is recommending against prescribing opioids for chronic pain to patients.
The recommendations are based on opioids' inability to produce effective results and their potential for long-term harm. In fact, research is showing that opioid use is growing more detrimental to public health.
Although the draft also recommends practitioners to err on the side of caution when prescribing medical marijuana, the guidelines acknowledge more research is required to "inform future practice".
Over a billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain; it's relentless, and conventional medications risk a plethora of long-term harm and side effects. Although the clinical research is still building its foundations, doctors continue to prescribe medical cannabis to help alleviate pain. There is also a call in the medical community for more extensive research and education into the treatment benefits of marijuana.
Meanwhile, countless anecdotal records suggest that medical marijuana is an optimal treatment for pain relief over opioid use. Because the plant remains a heavily restricted substance, the potential for extensive clinical research is held back by ethical red tape, lack of funding, lack of education, and are skewed from small population sizes.
However, the light at the end of the tunnel appears to be getting closer. According to a recent interview with The Telegraph, Dr. Steve Hajioff, former chair of the British Medical Association, states that cannabis products offer an effective treatment while stepping away from opioid dependence.
"Cannabis-derived medicines can help fill the gap in helping people with chronic pain, as we move away from some pain-management procedures and using opioid or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs."Dr. Steven Hajioff – Telegraph Interview
Dr. Hajioff goes on to state that establishing legal access to cannabis products would avoid sufferers from self-medicating and being entangled with the black market.
Globally, marijuana is still sought out frequently through the black market. In Australia, for example, a survey suggests that the social stigma of marijuana is a common reason why individuals turn to the black market.
In Canada, however, the illicit market continued to flourish well after legalization took place. The teething period of legalization essentially tried to run before it could walk. This resulted in a lack of product availability and high prices among other issues.
Regardless, cannabis is already becoming a popular treatment option for glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and sickle cell disease. In fact, most pain-related conditions are listed as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.
It's hard to imagine that the current legal scheduling of marijuana categorizes the plant to be more harmful than opioids. However, with over 30 countries that prescribe medical marijuana, it's widely known that the current scheduling needs an update: this is likely to occur later this year.
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