Chronic pain affects millions of people around the world. Anyone can develop this condition, regardless of age, gender, background, or lifestyle. While there are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of someone being affected, oftentimes chronic pain has no root cause and does not respond particularly well to treatment.

The legalization of medical marijuana in the United Kingdom has brought fresh hope for many people living with chronic pain that they might find some relief from their ongoing symptoms.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain tends to be defined as pain that lasts for longer than 3 months. While acute pain usually originates from a fixed injury, chronic pain can have a multitude of causes. It is complex and difficult to treat.

With the right therapies and medication, the severity of chronic pain can be diminished. For some people, however, it is a condition they will need to manage their whole life.

What causes chronic pain?

Chronic pain can have a number of different root causes, which is part of what makes it so difficult to manage.

For some people, there will be no obvious source of pain. Others may find that their chronic pain arises following a particular illness, injury, or medical treatment. Arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancer are all associated with chronic pain. Surgery for a musculoskeletal injury, like a knee replacement, can also cause ongoing pain, particularly if proper rehabilitation practices are not followed.

It’s important to note that chronic pain will feel different for different people. For some, it might resemble a dull stiffness. Others might experience sharp, shooting pain in the affected area. As chronic pain is a long-term condition without an obvious cure, it is often accompanied by other symptoms, including anxiety and depression.

Medical cannabis: an overview

Medical cannabis, or medical marijuana, has experienced an uptick in interest and prescriptions as increasing numbers of countries legalise the drug for medical purposes.

In 2018, following extensive research and consultation with stakeholders, medical cannabis was rescheduled from schedule 1 to schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, therefore becoming legal in the UK. Medical cannabis, also known as cannabis-based products for medical use, or CBPMs, is a highly regulated product and very different from cannabis you might find for sale on the street.

Medical cannabis is derived from the cannabis plant, which contains more than 100 different types of cannabinoids. Of these cannabinoids, two are most commonly used for medical purposes — delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabinoids work on the endocannabinoid system, helping to regulate cognitive functioning, inflammation, blood pressure, and digestion.

Cannabinoids bind themselves to two G protein-coupled receptors, cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). CB2 receptors, in particular, are thought to play an important role in pain modulation. By inhibiting the release of glutamate at these receptors, pain signals to the brain are reduced, and the release of proinflammatory substances from mast cells is restricted, thus helping to reduce the physical symptoms of chronic pain.

How do I obtain a medical cannabis prescription?

For those who have suffered from chronic pain their whole life, the news that medical marijuana was to be rescheduled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was very welcome. However, there are still certain steps that need to be followed to obtain a medical cannabis prescription.

To start with, not all doctors and specialists in the UK are qualified to prescribe medical cannabis. Unless your GP is listed on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council, you will need to book a consultation with a medical cannabis specialist. Prior to booking this consultation, you’ll likely need to answer a number of questions to prove your eligibility. These will relate to the condition you are suffering from (in this case, chronic pain), the types of treatment and medications you have tried (must be at least two) and how your chronic pain impacts your daily life.

Once the clinic has determined that you are eligible for a consultation, you can make a booking with a specialist. They’ll ask you a range of questions regarding your health history to better determine whether medical cannabis is a good treatment option for your chronic pain.

Chronic pain can be debilitating, particularly if the sufferer cannot determine a root cause. For those who have managed ongoing pain for years with little relief, medical marijuana could be a game-changer. Speak to a qualified medical cannabis specialist today to determine whether it is the right therapeutic option for you.

Author Bio: Bridget is a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne. She is a copywriter for Newpath Web and loves working with words of all shapes and sizes. When not playing around with punctuation and grammar, she enjoys travelling and curating her Spotify playlists.

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