Editor’s Note: Allie Haroutunian is a 25-year old chronic pan patient. She uses medical marijuana to address her chronic pain. She moved to Nevada from Georgia in order to more easily access medical marijuana.
I think a lot of the othering that (medical) marijuana falls victim to is because people don’t think of it as a medication, they think of it as a drug. Let’s change that right now. I will be referring to marijuana as cannabis and will refer to all other medications as…pharmaceuticals — to weed out the confusion.
(There’s absolutely no reason for this - the time for a serious study on the impact of marijuana for chronic pain is long overdue - but that’s for another day)
Not all strain classifications of cannabis are the same. The categories are sativa, indica, and hybrid with each classification producing its own effects, flowering times, flavors, and geographical origins. Even the way the plant is grown can determine the phenotype, producing differentiations in physical effects of the same strain; the cannabis plant is likened to a snowflake in its uniqueness — no two plants of the same strain are the same. I don’t want to get too technical with the different chemicals and phenotype differences just yet, so I’m going to focus on some basics for this article.
Each strain caters to different ailments too, with the end result (hopefully) being that patients rely less on pharmaceuticals. High Times reports that during a demographic review, chronic pain was the number one reason people used cannabis and when they did, over eighty percent reported less use of pharmaceuticals…and in turn lower opioid mortality rates. Cannabis can act as a substitute for some pharmaceuticals. More specifically, it can be used as a substitute for narcotics however there will be withdrawal effects which cannabis also cures.
Indica’s are generally recommended more for pain, producing a body high experience (some colloquially call it “couch-lock” meaning it literally feels as if it locks you to the couch). This includes a numbing sensation within the body and limbs, feeling sedated and relaxed, feeling content, less anxiety with an overall slow-things-down effect. CBD strains are classified as indica and are the strain used in CBD oils. It is the flower’s CBD content, among other compounds, that gives its pain fighting, muscle relaxing, anti-inflammation, and antioxidant benefits. High CBD strains have low levels of THC and don’t produce a typical high; instead it causes a slight dizziness, a little spike in energy, and an overwhelming feeling of less pain systemically.
*A quick word about isolating CBD for oil. The entourage effect describes how all of the chemicals and compounds, naturally occurring in the plant work together giving therapeutic benefits. Some companies isolate the chemical compounds instead of using the entire plant. Or they will bamboozle the consumer by using hemp instead of cannabis since CBD is commonly associated with cannabis. They are genetically similar and both contain CBD, however, hemp plant doesn’t produce the same effects or benefits as cannabis. These companies are allowed to maintain themselves under the guise of CBD oil based on a semantic technicality of containing CBD but not from a cannabis plant. Why mess with the synergy of a plant and try to synthetically/artificially reproduce it and expect good outcomes.
Sativa’s are recommended for symptoms of emotional/mood disorders, depression, fatigue. The effects are electrifying for some people and produce uncontrollable laughing attacks, creative thought, and an uplifted spirit. This is referred to as a cerebral high experience causing racing thoughts, and potentially new and deep mental or emotional revelations. This strain also causes an energized or refreshed feeling; its psychoactive nature is based on THC content, among other compounds.
There is some overlap among medical use between sativa and indica which is where selecting a hybrid strain comes in. For instance, both strain types and hybrids will help with nausea, appetite stimulation, depression, moods. While the effects of sativa and indica are distinct, there are many similarities ranging from happy, and euphoric
It is important to research the different names of each cannabis strain and what other users have said about it. If you’re looking for certain symptom relief blind trial and error will be a long and arduous process with little direction…and potentially a waste of money. Not all strains are created equal and not all strains will help with chronic pain. In fact, some strains make pain worse and increase paranoia. Choose with care.
Editor’s Note” Allie also left some reference sites that she used to write this commentary.
*leafly.com is a great database website that categorizes each strain name and includes charts, chemical/compound breakdown (where applicable), and user reviews to give comprehensive views to find the best fit for symptom management.
Beyond CBD: Why the Whole Plant Mattershttps://www.projectcbd.org
Indica vs Sativa: The Small but Significant Difference in Cannabis Genes https://hightimes.com/read/indica-vs-sativa-small-significant-difference-cannabis-genes
Sative, Indica, and Hybrid: What’s the Difference Between Cannabis Types https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/sativa-indica-and-hybrid-whats-the-difference-between-cannabis-ty
Medical Marijuana: The Entourage Effect https://www.leafscience.com/2014/09/11/medical-marijuana-entourage-effect/
Study: Daily Cannabis Use for Chronic Pain is Safe, Effective https://blog.norml.org/2015/09/21/study-daily-cannabis-use-for-chronic-pain-is-safe-effective/