The agony seems relentless. Whether it be constant dull aches or periodic sharp flare-ups, chronic pain can disrupt your quality of life in a huge way. If you think you’ve tried it all and resigned yourself to bearing it, there may be one more potential aid you hadn’t considered.

Can cannabis help take your life back? Read on to learn everything you need to know about the science behind medical marijuana for pain and how it may help.

Can I use medical marijuana for pain management?

Medical marijuana holds a lot of promise for treating pain based on the results of some studies and an overwhelming amount of success stories online. But, science can’t conclude that marijuana alone can alleviate pain for a couple of reasons.

First, there simply isn’t enough research performed on a large scale that is reliable by experimental standards. Cannabis remains a schedule 1 drug under federal law. So, securing funding and performing research for marijuana legally is highly restrictive.

Second, the research that does exist tests in the effects of medical marijuana for pain management under extreme circumstances like in AIDS patients or those with intense neuropathic pain.

That said, studies published as recently as 2018 suggest that medical marijuana may offer mild to moderate relief. The studies recommend using medical marijuana for pain as a palliative treatment rather than a cure.

Medical marijuana might help some people on a case-by-case basis. Some patients in clinical trials reported over a 30% reduction in their pain. That could be a life-changing improvement for those in need.

Can medical marijuana replace opiates?

Medical marijuana should never be used as a replacement to prescribed medication without professional advice first and also by law, it is required first to have an MMJ card in Colorado. Always talk to a doctor about changing a pain management plan. That said, medical marijuana might be able to work in tandem with opioids for pain management and let you use a lower amount.

A curation of studies and surveys in a 2020 medical marijuana and opioids report shared findings that people with chronic pain who use marijuana often get less prescribed opioids. The exact relationship between the two is not well understood yet.

Here’s what science can tell us. Researchers found that opioids and medical marijuana work in two entirely different systems of the body. Marijuana uses the endocannabinoid system while opiates attach to opioid receptors.

Every person has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) unique to them with cannabinoid receptors all throughout their body. Scientists have found that the ECS helps maintain homeostasis of our body in a few areas.

Body functions like the inflammatory response, hair growth, sweat production, and immune-response have been linked to the ECS. Cannabinoids bind to these receptors in the ECS to regulate these processes.

Marijuana contains over 100 cannabinoids including THC, CBD, and a lot more. These compounds interact with the ECS in a way researchers still don’t completely understand. But, some believe that using opioids along with marijuana may be a more effective pain treatment thanks to this kind of two-pronged approach.

What is the best kind of medical marijuana for pain management?

It can be confusing to choose with all the strains and varieties of MMJ out there. After getting an MMJ card in Colorado, you only need to know a few key facts about a given strain for a lot of insight about how it may feel. We simplified all those facts you need to know below.

What are the main types of medical marijuana?

There are 3 main types of medical marijuana. It’s important to remember that they’re classified by their physical appearance rather than their effects. Let’s look at all three.

  1. Indica: Indicas are shorter and fatter plants. The leaves are usually broad and dark.
  2. Sativa: Sativas are tall, thin plants, with long, light leaves.
  3. Hybrid: Any mix between these two is called a hybrid.

There are still budtenders and cannabis professionals out there who will tell you that indicas give more of a relaxed body high. And sativas give an energetic, “heady” high. It’s important to remember that there’s no science to back up this myth.

Instead, you should ask about a strain’s terpene profile to guess a bit at its effects.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are the natural oils of the plant that give cannabis its flavor, smell, and manipulate the effects of a strain in a subtle way.

The list of terpenes you may find in a strain is too long for the scope of this article. Instead, look for strains containing the three below when using marijuana for pain management.

  • Carophyllene: activates your ECS to reduce inflammation
  • Myrcene: sedative effects often recommended for use with pain
  • Pinene: counteracts some potential side effects of THC, used for pain and anxiety

Ultimately, your body and unique ECS is the most important guide to the best strain. But, asking about the terpene profile for some clues about how a particular strain may feel is a great start. It’s a good way to decide if a strain is right for your needs.

What is the best way to take medical marijuana for pain management?

After you’ve got the perfect strain picked out, you might wonder whether edible or smokable marijuana is best for pain. Read on for highlights of the pros and cons of each.



  • Edibles last a long time. You’ll be getting 6 to 8 hours of active effects compared to other forms.
  • Edibles are said to have a stronger “body high” than smoked marijuana. Edibles are metabolized by your gut and liver and become a different compound than smoked marijuana. It’s an entirely different experience that may be better for pain.


  • Edibles have a slow onset. After 60 to 90 minutes, you should feel the full effects. But when you need immediate relief, those minutes can be excruciating.
  • Dosing can be difficult. Because of the slow onset, it’s a common mistake to take too much before the full effect kicks in. It can be an unpleasant experience being “too high” for a long time until it wears off.



  • Immediate effects. Smoked marijuana’s effects kick in after about 2 minutes and peaks after 10. It’s a good idea to have flowers or a vape pen handy when you need relief right away.
  • Easy to control the dose. Thanks to the quick-acting effects, you’ll have no difficulty judging how much you need to smoke. Take a few puffs, see how you feel, and repeat until you reach the desired effect.


  • Shorter-lasting effects. Depending on the strength and dose you’ve had, effects last about 1 to 3 hours.
  • Might need some prep time. If you’re smoking flowers, you might need to roll a joint yourself or pack a pipe. This can be a fun ritual too, but could feel like a hassle when you’re hurting.

Should I use Medical Marijuana for Pain Management?

The exciting potential of current studies, the low risks compared to opioid treatments, and the wealth of positive anecdotal evidence seems to say there’s a lot to gain from trying MMJ for pain..

But before that, you should speak to a medical professional about your condition, current plan, options, and how to get an MMJ card in Colorado. At Medical Alternatives Clinics, we connect medical marijuana doctors in the Colorado Springs, CO area. We work with people just like you looking for relief from pain.

Contact Medical Alternative Clinics today. Schedule a convenient appointment to speak to one of our doctors to learn more about medical marijuana may bring you the relief you’ve been looking for…

Works Cited