Cannabis can seem like a harmless drug, but like any substance, it needs to be used with caution. I remember a professor telling me, if a drug doesn’t have a side effect, it doesn’t have an effect, and that is certainly true of cannabis. It has many side effects and the overall value of cannabis as a chronic pain management tool is still unproven by decent drug trials.

The risk of cannabis may outweigh the benefit. Adolescents in particular are at risk when they use cannabis. They are two to four times as likely to develop a substance use disorder and have an increased risk of mental health or neurological problems.

The elderly are also at risk. Is cannabis worth the risk of a lower IQ? Learning difficulties, earlier onset dementia, falls, psychosis, anxiety, and increased suicide risk are all side effects that occur with cannabis use.

Withdrawal symptoms after regular cannabis use include irritability, anger, aggression, anxiety, weight loss, restlessness, depressed mood, abdominal pain, tremors, fevers, chills, and headache.

Please speak to your healthcare provider about alternative management tools. I have had patients self-medicate their chronic pain with alcohol. Alcohol silently attacks muscles, including the heart, and the brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs. By the time alcohol damage shows itself, it is usually too late.

If you are using cannabis or alcohol to cope with your chronic pain, consider speaking to your doctor about other drugs. Opioids may be necessary in cases of overwhelming pain. They have significant side effects, especially in the elderly, and should be used to assist in the use of other chronic pain tools, like those in Step 2Step 3Step 5Step 6, and Lower Inflammation.

It can be helpful to have someone with you to help you communicate your pain to your doctor/healthcare provider. Have the conversations necessary to make reasonable choices.

Unfortunately, there are too many patients without physicians. I believe healthcare needs to be changed. There are many patients who have incredible knowledge and resources – those who have learned to manage their pain. If only we could find a forum where these patients become the leaders helping others to heal. In the future, I see nurses and physician assistants working with patients in group settings for education and working individually with patients to tailor safe chronic pain management.

We are far from where we need to be to provide those in pain with relief. In BC, we are trying with Pain BC and Self Management BC to find help, but we have a long road ahead of us.

Take care all.


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