You might’ve heard about the obvious shift in healthcare. Patients suffering from different forms of pain, especially chronic, and moving from opioid pain killers to cannabis. But is this shift the right move? Are people aware of the benefits cannabis has over opiates or is this a gamble? Let’s find out!

Pain and Painkillers

Pain, whether acute, chronic, neuropathic (nerves), nociceptive (tissues) or radicular (spinal nerve), can really impact your life. From the inability to walk properly to the incapability to go through the day without an opioid, pain looks different for everybody.

Pain killers can be both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription-based. With OTC medications, the effects are short-lived and not addictive. These are also best suited for short-term purposes and have limited effects. Some common OTCs can be Acetaminophen, NSAIDs, combination medications that have both as well as topical gels, balms, and roll-ons that contain aspirin, lidocaine, capsaicin pepper or other similar ingredients.

On the other hand, stronger pain relievers require a prescription prior to using. These include opioids,  antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, muscle relaxers, steroids, and topicals. Opioids like codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and morphine are lab-made narcotic medications that are most often prescribed to treat chronic pain, post-surgery pain, or one due to a traumatic injury. Opioids can be very addictive if used over a long duration.

Antidepressants can also help manage pain as they work on the neurotransmitters in the brain.

Epilepsy medications help control seizures and therefore ease nerve pain as well as pain in the muscles and joints.

Muscle relaxants work by reducing muscle spasms, relaxing tight muscles, and thereby reducing muscle pain.

Steroids are anti-inflammatory medications that help manage inflammation, irritation, and pain in conditions like arthritis and back pain.

One major drawback of these prescription-based medications is their scope for inducing addictive behavior.

In the next section, we’ll focus on the reason for the replacement of painkillers (majorly opioids) with cannabis.

Image Credit: lightwise/

Image Credit: lightwise/

Cannabis vs Painkillers

We still haven’t found a trustworthy, science-backed, non-addictive way of finding relief from pain. All pain killers prescribed by physicians to treat acute or chronic conditions have addictive effects to a large extent. So why are these still prescribed? Because they work.

However, the entry of cannabis into the landscape has turned the tide.

Multiple research papers today focus on cannabis’s potential to act as an analgesic. What’s more, while the herb is known for its habit-forming effects, these are much milder than other pain-relieving alternatives, aka, pain killers. It is for this reason that medical marijuana clinics like MD Ganja recommend patients apply for an MMJ card to access cannabis for pain relief.

Why Has Cannabis Taken Over?

One major reason for cannabis’s take over is its potential to act as a pain reliever.

A study based on a survey of 2879 medical marijuana patients examined this potential. 34% of this group had previously consumed opioid painkillers in the last 6 months. Upon using cannabis, 81% of the sample group agreed that cannabis was effective in treating their pain compared to opioids.

Apart from this survey, multiple other pieces of research have been conducted to figure out cannabis’s analgesic benefits.

Another major reason for this takeover is that cannabis can help reduce a patient’s dependency on opioids.

As per the study shared previously, 97% of the participants stated that they were able to reduce their overall consumption and dependency on opiates after switching to cannabis.

Cannabis is also gaining fame due to its limited habit-forming effects.

While we’re not stating that cannabis is without addictive properties, however, it tends to have milder effects compared to other opioid-based medications. In most cases, once you stop consuming cannabis, you could potentially be struck by some common withdrawal symptoms. These most often fall under the following categories:

  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Change in Appetite
  • Stress and Nervousness
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vivid and Unpleasant Dreams

However, in most cases, these side effects tend to subside within the first few weeks of ceasing use.

Since cannabis is still a highly regulated substance, legally possessing more than you require is difficult. The state only allows medical users to possess and sometimes grow as much cannabis as their medical condition requires. This reduces the chances of overdosing on a substance that is available in limitation.

Since multiple states also allow the possession of recreational cannabis in regulated doses, every adult in these legal states gets to enjoy its pain-relieving benefits without any serious side effects.


Cannabis has proved to be an analgesic through multiple types of research. Even though we’re still unaware of how far its potential goes, we aren’t the only ones advocating its use. Studies dive into the benefits of the herb in reducing a patient’s dependency on opioids while also providing relief from pain.

Gayton Stafford is a passionate blogger. He has been writing about health, medical marijuana, strains and cannabis laws for the past five years.

Note: Please consult with your physician before taking any medication. None of the above is intended as medical advice.