Cannabis for post-surgical recovery
The stigma surrounding the medical usage of cannabis has been reduced in the past couple of years. Various countries and states are allowing doctors to prescribe medical cannabis for pain relief in post-operative recovery. Not all doctors are aware of the positive effects that surround the medicinal use of cannabis, but research is slowly making its way to every doctor’s office. Here are some reasons why cannabis should be prescribed to patients for pain relief.
1. Avoiding opioid addiction
When discussing pain management methods, addiction needs to be taken into consideration. Just about any method of pain relief will cause some degree of addiction. Our brains are hardwired to avoid pain and chase pleasure, which means that any stimulus which achieves either of these things will lead to some form of psychological addiction. With many substances that deal with pain relief, you will find that psychological addiction isn’t the only risk present.
Opioid medication causes physical addiction in a very large percentage of patients. The current opioid epidemic in America demonstrates this very well. A patient is prescribed pain medication after surgery that they must take to deal with constant pain. This battle with pain can last several months, which leads to patients slowly getting addicted to the medication. Once the pain subsides, they are suddenly left without the chemical stimulus their brain and body crave. This can lead to severe physical manifestations of withdrawal symptoms that range from headaches to seizures. Many will turn to illegal opioid substances to avoid withdrawal, which further exacerbates the problem.
Patients have their first contact with opioid substances after surgery, which means they are probably unaware of the potential for addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
There is a heated debate on whether or not cannabis can cause psychological addiction and it is used as an argument against the substance. However, physical addiction has yet to be reported with cannabis, which means severe withdrawal symptoms aren’t present, even when patients abruptly stop taking the medication. There’s absolutely no doubt that cannabis is a much safer alternative to opioid medication. If effective, it could pave the way to replacing these dangerous and addictive substances.
2. An increased appetite helps recovery
Increased fondness for food is a well-documented effect of consuming cannabis. This might not seem very significant from a medical point of view, but it’s one of the many reasons cannabis is used for medicinal purposes. Patients undergoing chemotherapy are often unable to keep up their previous food intake and this effect can be detrimental to their health and treatment. They are often prescribed medical cannabis to both prevent pain and stimulate their appetite.
Surprisingly, this effect of cannabis is just as important in post-surgical recovery as any other effect. The importance of eating well after major surgery is often underestimated. Proper nutrition is crucial for many of the body’s systems, especially during such a vulnerable time. Sugar is required to give the patient energy, while the body often spends a great deal of it after any kind of traumatic injury, including surgery. Proper wound healing requires an overabundance of protein. They are the building blocks of all our cells and the body is going into overdrive during the recovery process, which means it requires much more protein than usual.
Cannabis allows patients to significantly increase their appetite, in spite of the many side effects medication might have on their digestive tracks. With proper nutrition, wounds will heal quicker and more efficiently. As an added benefit, the pain should also subside quicker.
3. Psychoactive effects and skepticism
Pain relief isn’t the only thing cannabis is famous for. It has a reputation for being a substance for recreational use because of its psychoactive effects. Cannabis contains two different effective compounds: CBD and THC. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the substance that is responsible for the euphoric feeling that is associated with smoking cannabis. While medical use of cannabis is becoming more widespread throughout the world, the effects of THC are still considered controversial. Many doctors hesitate to give their patients something that will make them feel “high”.
The other substance that is featured in cannabis is CBD, which is short for Cannabidiol. It has a host of effects and it’s used for various medicinal purposes. Combined with THC in proper amounts, it can actually counteract the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, which makes it ideal to prescribe for patients that do not wish to partake in the psychoactive element of cannabinoids.
Combined, these two substances are considered a viable alternative to a lot of pain relief medication.
4. Specific surgeries and the associated risks
Despite all the positive effects of cannabis on post-surgical recovery, it’s recommended you speak to your designated healthcare professional before you use any kind of pain-relief medication. Some surgical procedures might require a different approach to medication and recovery.
Cosmetic procedures have a different set of risks associated with them which might contraindicate certain substances. For example, medical professionals from Panthea Plastic Surgery recommend that patients don’t irritate their airways for at least a week and a half after a rhinoplasty. Any kind of smoking becomes out of the question. The delicate cartilage in the patient’s nose is still malleable and it can lose its desired shape if too much coughing or sneezing occurs.
In the post-operative care of breast augmentation surgeries, smoking cigarettes and cannabis is not recommended for some time after the operation. Both of them expose patients to very minute amounts of carbon monoxide when smoked. This amount isn’t enough to actively harm the patient, but it can influence the growth of healthy tissue in affected areas. The surgery leaves the breast tissue starved of oxygen until the body can adapt, which means that every single bit of oxygen matters. For the swiftest possible recovery, it’s important to avoid even the tiniest amount of carbon monoxide from smoking.
Internal procedures that involve delicate blood vessels are especially vulnerable to coughs. Stitches are liable to break if you end up in a coughing fit, which is why any kind of stimulation of the lungs is not recommended.
Generally speaking, most of the harmful effects that you might find from consuming cannabis in post-operative care come from smoking it. Taking it in other forms counteracts these problems and leads to pain relief without issues. Luckily, cannabis medication can be taken effectively in various forms that do not affect the lungs.
5. Tackling overdose and tolerance
It’s no secret that a lot of pain medication is dangerous. Addiction isn’t the only threat to the patient’s long-term health. Opioids are considered some of the deadliest medicinal substances that can be prescribed. This isn’t due to their innate toxicity, but rather how the patient can accidentally abuse them and cause harm to themselves.
Tolerance is a very important factor when prescribing opioid medications. The patient’s body will eventually get used to a certain amount of medication, which will lead to a reduced effect. This is the body’s way of adapting to a substance it’s not used to. If the medicine blocks a high number of receptors in order to prevent pain, the body will compensate by adding more receptors to the nerves that signal pain. This process gets repeated until you require higher doses of the medication to reduce the constant pain.
This creates two problems for the patient. For one, they need to be prescribed larger doses every time they visit their doctor. Medical professionals are wary of prescribing too many bottles of such addictive substances, which makes it difficult for the patient to actually manage their pain. On the other hand, the process of building tolerance also makes the pain worse over time. Patients that stop using opioid medication will find themselves in even more pain than when they started, leading them to more drastic and illegal measures.
Cannabis, on the other hand, has no upper dosage limits. There have been no known deaths from smoking or eating cannabis and its related products so far. Reaching a dosage that could kill the patient is simply impossible with any regular application methods. In this sense, it’s considered immeasurably safe compared to its opioid counterparts. Tolerance is still something that needs to be tackled. The dosage needs to be gradually increased in order to be effective after some time. With this in mind, the patient doesn’t have to worry about ill effects from neglecting their medication. There are no sudden changes in pain tolerance that are associated with discontinuation of therapy.
Cannabis has proven itself to be a useful tool in reducing chronic pain in patients recovering from surgical operations. It provides many of the same benefits that opioid medication does, but with drastically fewer downsides. The effectiveness of cannabis compared to opioid medication is still hotly debated. However, even a slight decrease in effectiveness would very much make up for the loss of dangerous side effects that are featured in opioid medication. If the legalization of medical cannabis usage continues to rise, it’s quite possible that it will replace some of the more common methods of pain relief in today’s medical world.