THC as a medicine

The basics

«In the treatment of pain, THC as a medicine will no longer be an alternative going forward – it will be the new standard.»

– Ivan Mestrangelo, Chief Executive Officer
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A survey conducted by the European Pain Federation in 2014 shows that around 100 million people in the EU suffer from chronic pain.

A life full of pain
– what does it mean?

It seems to be an inevitable fact of life: Pain is part of it. Science confirms it. Surveys conducted by the Federal Statistical Office, for example, show that pain is a normal aspect of everyday life for many men and women in Switzerland. More than two out of five people suffer from back pains; nearly every tenth woman complains of severe pain in the shoulders and neck; and just as many women struggle with problems in falling asleep or sleeping through the night.

Looking at the topic of chronic pain on an international level, the situation is even more dire. In Germany and Austria, chronic pain can almost be called a veritable pandemic. Surveys conducted by the European Pain Federation in 2014 provide evidence that around 100 million people in the European Union suffer from chronic pain (i.e. pain that lasts three months or more and returns with regularity). Not surprisingly, for those affected, this leads to a severe impairment of their physical and mental health.

Treatment with opioids – a shift in the tale of woe

Of course, permanent pain reduces quality of life and has a negative impact on the psyche and the body. Thus various forms of medicinal treatment have become routine, especially in medicine in the Western world, where the problem of chronic pain is systemic. One such form of treatment is the administration of so-called opioids, and it is significant. The term refers to natural or synthetic substances with morphine-like effects. Over the trajectory of their lives, almost 20 percent of all Europeans take such preparations. The administration of opioids has proven successful in many ways. It has one major disadvantage, though: The substances have a high potential for making patients addicted to them.

Many switch to heroin and fentanyl later. For this reason, a state of emergency was declared in the United States in 2017: Every year, 47,000 people, about 130 a day, die of opioids there.

The development in the United States shows the risk of opioid administration. Experts speak of a veritable opioid crisis: Tens of thousands of people have become addicted to painkillers containing opioids in the United States. Many switch to heroin and fentanyl later. For this reason, a state of emergency was declared in the United States in 2017: Every year, 47,000 people, about 130 a day, die of opioids there. In October 2019, a model civil suit began in Cleveland, Ohio, against several pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers. The class action bundled more than 2000 lawsuits. The companies are accused of consciously having concealed the risk of addiction involved in using these painkillers and having marketed the drugs aggressively for profit.

A study with 2897 patients using medical cannabis revealed:

Those who have used opioid painkillers in the last 6 months
34%
Reduced opioid medication by taking THC
97%
Felt the use of THC alone was more effective than together with opioid drugs
81%

THC instead of opioids

More and more patients prefer a therapy with THC instead of using opioids and have declared that this approach has worked better for them. An article published in the journal “Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research” provides evidence of this. In a study on the consumption of THC as a replacement for pain medications containing opioids, 2897 patients using medicinal cannabis were interviewed and data was collected. 34 percent of the sample group said that they have used opioid painkillers in the last six months. A majority within this group stated that the use of cannabis relieved their pain as effectively as other drugs but without the unwanted side effects. No less than 97 percent of the group reported that they were able to reduce the amount of opioid medication on account of using THC. Moreover, 81 percent stated that THC alone was more effective for treating their ailment than using THC together with opioid drugs. The authors of the paper note that “compared with drugs containing opioids, THC facilitates effective pain treatment, greatly reduces the likelihood of dependency and eliminates the risk of fatal overdoses. Patients who are administered medicinal THC report that cannabis is as effective or more effective than pain medications based on opioids.”

Medicinal THC
– a substance with a huge potential

The number of people worldwide who apply a THC-based therapy has increased tenfold over the last three years. In most parts of the world, including all of Europe, THC-based drugs were re-approved as marketable medicines and can be obtained by prescription from any pharmacy. The advantages of THC preparations are impressive: The effect of THC in combination with other cannabinoids and secondary plant substances has been known for many centuries. Cannabis preparations open up interesting new vistas for the treatment of chronic pain. Previous observations suggest that pain relief is gradually built up (e.g. according to Prof. Martin Pinsger). The benefits include improvement of sleep in the first few days, muscle relaxation and appetite stimulation as well as pain reduction after sufficient regeneration. Market experts assume that patients suffering from pain may be able to discontinue strong drugs that contain opiates in the future, thus gaining a far better quality of life through the use of THC preparations.
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The range of applications is broad and covers a variety of the most common diseases in all age groups. Many patients who were treated with medicinal THC, especially patients suffering from pain, were able to dispense with other drugs that have various side effects; or at least reduce these drugs. Over one-half of the patients who received benzodiazepines – which has a high dependency potential – for the treatment of anxiety, muscle cramps and sleep disorders could switch completely to cannabis. And clinical trials have shown: The amounts of cannabinoids ingested during treatment do not result in any dependency. Medicinal cannabis preparations can be taken for any length of time.