Some people find medical cannabis helpful for chronic pain, especially in the short term, but there are questions about long-term effectiveness and safety. Cannabis wasn’t recommended by Mayo Clinic when I attended their Pain Rehabilitation Center in 2018 nor is it recommended by the International Association for the Study of Pain.
A new systematic review and meta-analysis published November 28, 2022, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests cannabis is no better at relieving pain than a placebo. And relying on any sort of passive treatment like medicines and supplements can create dependence on the agent - producing a sense of helplessness and reminding the user of the pain.
I have found I don’t need medicine or supplements to manage my chronic pain. Of course, your experience may differ. I know mine did earlier in my pain journey. My relief came by changing how I think about, feel about, and behave around the pain with pain rehabilitation using self-management.
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Editor’s note: This article was written based on my experience and what I have researched about the topic. Everyone is different. The decision to use supplements should be a decision between doctor and patient.
As part of the week-long Mayo Clinic fibromyalgia program I attended in 2016, I met with a pharmacist to review the lengthy list of prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, and supplements I was taking at the time. My medicine cabinet looked like a GNC store.
I was instructed to bring the actual bottles with me to the appointment, so I packed the bottles into a gym bag (yes, I was taking a lot of medicines and supplements) and went to see her.
I was surprised as she read each bottle, making comments and recommendations about each pill – including product quality, labeling issues, ingredient safety, and dosing.
When the appointment ended, my medicine and supplement list was much shorter with her recommending stopping most of the supplements and my gym bag much lighter – throwing away the pills I was going to stop taking.
Unlike prescription or over-the-counter drugs, which must be approved by the Federal Drug Agency (FDA) before they can be marketed, the FDA doesn’t review supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are sold.
We don’t know where the products are made, how they are made, what is in them, and if the dosage is appropriate.
Safety is left up to the manufacturers and distributors of the supplements.
You assume all risks when using supplements. While some may be valuable, many aren’t.
Tom Bowen is a chronic pain patient who turned into an advocate, educator, and collaborator.
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