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Dr. Andrew Rynne
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Dr. Andrew Rynne

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What are the side effects of using medical Marijuana?

Answered by
Dr.
Dr. Olsi Taka

Neurologist

Practicing since :2004

Answered : 3650 Questions

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Posted on Tue, 13 Sep 2016 in Brain and Spine
Question: I am not really wanting to use medical marijuana but, I told a friend i would ask a few questions. I am not a smoker and feel there is no way I could smoke it. But my friend told me it would probably be better on my body than the 120 mg of Opana I take daily for the seven lumbar surgeries I had. I also take 3200 mg daily of gabapentin for the damage done during the surgeries that created neuropathy. I was a paramedic for 35 years and have been around marijuana and the smell of the smoke nauseates me. The opana or oxycontin has been working for me since 2003. Along with a spinal cord stimulator I have the pain managed fairly well (liveable) I am able to manage the OIC fairly well also. Now my questions.
1. Will the marijuana work better and be better for me.
2. Does the edible or liquid form work for any length of time like 8 hrs. between doses.
3. Do you have any idea if BC/BS pays any of the cost.
4.Is there any constipation issues.
5.Is there any long term side effects known about.
6. Is it as hard to get off of as Opioids and is it more likely to give you a craving to get onto something heavier like Cocaine etc.
I am 62 years old in good health an active farmer and rancher in Southeastern New Mexico, the hottest and sunniest place North of Hell, which is one of the problems with the opioids, the heat and sun.
Thank you for your help.
doctor
Answered by Dr. Olsi Taka 3 hours later
Brief Answer:
Read below.

Detailed Answer:
I read your question carefully and I understand your position and the reason pushing you towards considering cannabis.

1.     Cannabis is thought to have some effect from chronic pain. The benefit is moderate only about 20% of patients report an improvement in the pain level (definition of improvement may vary among studies, usually at least 30%). Regarding which is better compared with the opioids you are taking, there is no evidence about that, there are no major studies comparing them, most of the studies with cannabis have used a comparison with placebo. So there is no evidence. My personal opinion is that the opioids have a stronger effect then cannabis.
2.     As for the length of time of the edible or liquid form, with regular use that usually goes beyond 8 hours. That is first due to the slow absorption in the gut and second because once absorbed cannabinoids are deposited in fatty tissue as well, reaching a peak after 4-5 days of use and afterwards they are released back in the blood when their concentration there falls. So their level even when interrupted drops very slowly.
3.     To my knowledge medical cannabis is not paid by insurance companies. There are still many burocratic obstacles to that such as it not being approved by the FDA and it being still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
4.     No there are no constipation issues with Cannabis
5.     Long term side effects are feared such as affecting cognitive functions (memory, learning, executive functions). It is more of a concern with heavy users though, not so much with medical use. Also it is more of a concern in people starting it at a young age, the fact that it may affect their brain over many years, less of a concern for you. However more studies are needed, because it has been a illegal drug there are not regular enough studies on its long term side effects.
6.     It is easier to withdraw than opioids, withdrawal symptoms are present mostly in heavy users not in users of controlled medical cannabis. It does not produce a craving for other heavier drugs.

So bottom line is that more research is needed. In terms of controlling the pain opioids should be more effective. Cannabis is perhaps safer though and easier to withdraw.

I hope to have been of help.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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