Read Sample Chapters Of The Beginners Guide To Cannabis For Pain
Living with chronic pain can have a major impact on your quality of life, which is why Green Flower is beyond excited about the release of this brand-new e-book: The Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis for Pain.
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The Beginner's Guide to Cannabis for Pain
Foreword by Eugene Monroe
For years, I was on opioids and anti-inflammatories – and it had a negative impact on both my body and on my household. The game I played forced these substances on me and I took them, trusting my caretakers.
But instead of effectively treating all the injuries I had as an NFL football player, these pharmaceuticals masked the pain and caused more problems. They didn’t help me heal; they numbed me and allowed me to cause more damage.
And really this isn’t about my story, nor the other athletes who have experienced this. It’s about all of us. Our country as a whole has a pervasive opioid epidemic.
Cannabis had been on my radar for a while, and I resisted trying it for a long time. I grew up in Plainfield, NJ, a small town engulfed in cannabis and drug culture. And I saw the benefits of cannabis before my eyes when my father smoked it during his cancer treatment.
It was confusing because at the same time family and friends were harassed by police for the same drug that made my father feel better.
Before I ever experienced it myself, I listened to people, learned about their experiences, and when I removed the veil of stigma I saw cannabis truly is medicine.
Today cannabis is really saving my life, changing my life, improving the quality of my life – I’m experiencing it firsthand.
I no longer take any pharmaceuticals to manage the chronic pain from all those old injuries. They still hurt, but cannabis helps take the edge off.
Although I mostly speak about cannabis for the sports world, I understand it goes far beyond that. People all over are suffering from painful conditions that disrupt their life in so many ways.
In fact, the veteran population experiences many of the same ailments as athletes.
Some people have already realized the benefits of cannabis, and many are engaging in their education experience like I did, but don’t know where to turn – which is where this Beginner’s Guide and learning platforms like Green Flower can add a lot of value.
Understanding and legitimizing cannabis as medicine really does start with education.
And let’s be clear: Cannabis is effective at reducing pain for sure. You can treat it like you would any other tool to manage your pain.
The big difference is that it’s more natural and oftentimes more helpful than most traditional methods.
In my own exploration of cannabis as a pain management tool, I’ve been able to use different forms of it – just like any other traditional medicine might come in different forms.
If you’re having knee pain for example you might rub some BenGay or Voltaren gel on your knee, but with cannabis you can get more wholesome ingredients by combining it with coconut oil for example – and using that as a treatment.
Similarly, people also use pills to relieve themselves of pain, and you can take cannabis in a pill form, too.
This plant is so dynamic, and I would say treat it as wholesome medicine – and don’t think of it as anything else when it comes to how it applies to pain.
One important difference though is that cannabis simply does not come with the same perils you risk with opioids. The opioid epidemic has claimed victims from all walks of life and does not discriminate whatsoever.
Fortunately, there is now a concerted effort to reduce the amount of opioids prescribed for pain. And what’s even more encouraging is the on-average 25 percent drop in opioid-related issues within states that have medical cannabis programs.
How much more significant will that percentage be once more people learn about the value of cannabis for chronic pain? Or once more people have access to cannabis as an effective, safer treatment option…
Cannabis becomes even more relevant when you realize it’s not just physical pain we’re talking about.
There are tons of different types of pain that many people experience, whether it’s post-traumatic stress, anxiety or depression – when used appropriately cannabis can help with these conditions as well.
So for anything pain-oriented – physical, mental and even spiritual – we can explore cannabis to find some relief.
Although there is still a lot of fear and misconception around cannabis, it’s important to have an open mind and understand that at the very worst, if there are any fears, potential danger to your health is limited and does not include risk of death like opioids do.
I encourage you to have an open mind and learn as much as you can about it.
Understand that it’s something that can provide you relief, and if you have any reservations or maybe don’t know anything about cannabis, there’s enough information out there, you can do some research to understand how it’s being used – and again this book will be a great starting point for a lot of people.
If I were to boil all this down into one simple message it would be this: Cannabis is not a scary thing, and each one of us must look beyond any stigma to see what’s really there.
You really do have to check any preconceptions at the door, and think of it as a brand-new thing, like somebody introduced you to some new natural medicine that can provide you real relief.
I stand for my beliefs, and cannabis as a medicine is something I believe has real value, and will offer relief and hope to many.
I’ve benefited from this plant myself, I don’t take any more pharmaceutical drugs to deal with any of the injuries I’ve had – and I feel much better for it.
Cannabis as medicine is very real, and I hope you can find the same kind of healing that many of us have already experienced.
Retired NFL Player,
Introduction: Why Consider Cannabis?
Humankind’s relationship with cannabis goes back at least 10,000 years and probably much further than that.
Ancient China, Greece, and Egypt were just a few of the civilizations that recognized and respected this plant as a potent medicine.
If you look at today’s science, you’ll see that this is absolutely correct. In fact, today’s science shows us that the medical properties of cannabis are far more astounding than our ancestors could have ever imagined.
If cannabis were discovered today it would be universally hailed as one of the most significant, groundbreaking medical discoveries in the history of civilization.
It would not be overshadowed by a century of propaganda, stigma, and outright lies. We’d be able to look at it with fresh eyes – no judgment, no stereotypes – but rather a sense of excitement and curiosity – tell us more!
And now, for the first time in history, more people than ever are indeed getting curious about cannabis – how they can fit it into their lives or how they could make better use of it.
Getting the most value out of it requires an ongoing sense of curiosity on all fronts.
You could probably say that about almost everything, and with cannabis – although we still have a lot to learn – we already know, so so much.
As cannabis expert and medical geographer Dr. Sunil Aggarwal says: the science on cannabis is airtight. We know the essentials of how cannabis interacts with the body, why and how it helps so many different conditions, how to find the right dosage, and much more.
Here’s the exciting thing: people all over the world are turning to cannabis for the first time in their lives, overcoming so many decades of misinformation and stigma, to discover for themselves how cannabis is indeed a tool for wellness when used mindfully. Adding to their quality of life, alleviating pain and suffering, inspiring reflection and epiphany, enhancing relationships and dialogue, sparking a sense of wonder, appreciation and beauty.
We certainly don’t know everything about cannabis on the scientific front – but we do know that when it’s clean and contaminant-free, it’s most likely one of the safest substances on earth, which is surprising when you look at potentially dangerous substances that have no stigma at all like alcohol, sugar, or even Tylenol.
Also, cannabis isn’t nearly as addictive as many of the narcotics prescribed for pain management. And because there are no cannabinoid receptors in your brainstem, it’s impossible to lethally overdose on cannabis.
Unfortunately we can’t say the same for opioids and a lot of other pharmaceuticals out there. Those substances have helped people – and Green Flower doesn’t intend to demonize them – but they’ve also hurt a lot of people, have taken lives, and ruined families.
None of this is to say that cannabis is a panacea or a cure-all. Or that it doesn’t demand our respect.
In fact, finding what works best for you in the cannabis world almost always takes a little bit of trial and error, a little bit of practice and patience. This is actually the case with almost all medications.
Going through this book will help you navigate that process with cannabis faster and more efficiently.
You’ll learn how to better zero in on the benefits you’re looking for, how to manage expectations, and understand what to avoid.
Even if you’ve been using cannabis for years, there is still so much to learn and hopefully this book inspires you to stay curious as you invest yourself in fighting and overcoming the life impacts of chronic pain.
On behalf of the entire Green Flower team, we hope this book helps you find your way with cannabis, tapping into the maximum benefits this powerful plant has to offer.
– Gregory Frye,
Online Executive Editor
Green Flower Media
How much do I take and how often…?
Understanding Cannabis Dosage
Like every aspect of cannabis, dosing has its own set of nuances and misconceptions. It can be a significant point of confusion for newcomers – how much to take? How often? What if you take too much?
The worst thing that can happen to you if you take too much cannabis (assuming you’re safely at home) is that you may feel quite uncomfortable, dizzy, paranoid, or anxious.
When this happens to cannabis newcomers, the biggest concern is they have a terrible experience and are turned off from cannabis completely without ever trying it again – when in reality they could have a much better experience the next time with a smaller dose.
Golden Rule: Start Low, Go Slow
So maybe you’ve heard about the importance of starting low and going slow for cannabis beginners – but what does that actually mean?
If you are smoking or vaping, it means taking one puff and waiting 10 or 15 minutes before deciding whether or not to take another puff.
With oral cannabis (such as an edible or infused drink), it means consuming 2-5 mg of THC, and waiting to see how this dose impacts you.
Wait until the next day before deciding whether or not you need a larger dose. You might even stick with that same small dose for a few days or longer before moving up if necessary.
Sometimes it takes a few weeks for your system to adjust to the cannabinoids, and these guidelines are especially important if you are unfamiliar with the product potency.
One of the biggest mistakes people make with cannabis is taking too much in a single dose or re-dosing too quickly.
Cannabis Has a Wide Dosing Range
Although starting low is important, your ideal dose could ultimately be much higher than expected.
During Green Flower’s 2016 Cannabis Health Summit, Dr. Dustin Sulak pointed out that some people may require as little as 3 mg of THC. Others may require 1700 mg in extreme cases.
Sulak is a licensed osteopathic physician in Maine, and he works with patients through a very large cannabis practice called Integr8 Health.
When Green Flower later interviewed Dr. Sulak for the Cannabis As Medicine series, he offered more insights on this wide dosage range with cannabis:
“Dosing strategies are quite different for people that are new to cannabis versus people that are already using cannabis. For those that are new to it, the simple philosophy of start low, go slow and don't be afraid to go all the way applies,” Dr. Sulak says.
“Because not everyone will respond to a low-dose, patients do need to be aware that it may require a very high dose for some individuals but in general, starting low has great advantages.”
With a little practice and familiarity, you’ll be able to approach cannabis dosing with much greater confidence.
You can start by testing small doses, allowing your body to acclimate, and gradually increasing or decreasing the amount over several days or weeks – until you find the ideal dose that works best for you.
This process is called titration. Titration is how you find your minimum effective dose, that perfect sweet spot where you’re getting the most benefits with the least amount of side effects.
Know the Biphasic Nature of Cannabis
When looking for your optimal cannabis dose, it’s very helpful to understand that cannabis is classified as a biphasic substance.
This means if you take too much, it can actually have the opposite effect of what you intended.
For example, if you begin using cannabis for pain management and you take too much, you might perceive your pain to be even worse.
Instead of experiencing relief, too high a dosage may cause you to focus on your pain even more. Or if somebody takes cannabis to treat nausea, it could really help – unless they use too much, which could make them even more nauseous.
The more you exceed your therapeutic window with cannabis medicine, which is your ideal dosage range, the more side effects you’ll experience along with a diminishing of benefits.
This is why titration and finding your minimum effective dose are an important aspect of honing in on the cannabis varieties and products that work best for you – if you want to get serious about the medical benefits.
Learning How to Self-Titrate
With most prescribed medications, your doctor is supposed to help you figure out the best dosage amount. With cannabis, however, this process of titration is quite often left in the hands of the patient.
Luckily, cannabis is a very safe substance, which means it’s safe for patients to find their ideal dosage on their own because you don’t have to worry about a fatal overdose as you would with many pharmaceuticals on the market.
Having said that, learning how to self-titrate is crucial. This is how you find your ideal dosage level for the desired effects, where you’re taking just the right amount of cannabis for your specific needs or situation.
It’s also an important part of learning how to avoid taking more cannabis than you actually need.
A lot of experienced cannabis consumers make this mistake, and more of them are starting to discover that taking too much cannabis on a regular basis actually translates to increased side effects and diminished benefits.
In other words, even seasoned cannabis consumers must take a careful look at self-titration if they want to maximum benefits for medical use.
At first, this whole titration aspect may seem quite intimidating to a lot of people. It’s actually quite simple.
Titration basically means you gradually increase or decrease your cannabis dosage until you find your perfect sweet spot.
The goal is to get the most benefits you possibly can with the least amount of side effects by finding your minimum effective dose (actual examples on how to do this appear later in the book).
This means using cannabis with a light hand, being careful not to overdo it, being patient and paying careful attention to your physiology, how your body is reacting to the dosage amount.
So if you’re already a regular consumer, and want to find your minimum effective dose through titration, you’ll want to start titrating downward to lower your tolerance, which will help you properly experiment with lower dosages.
As you try lower dosing, you can note down how you feel, what your pain level is before and after, etc.
Be careful not to re-dose too quickly, as described above. And remember, you may not actually be looking for psychoactivity to tell you you’ve reached your optimal dose. Rather, decreased pain levels.
The titration process can occur over a process of several days or weeks even. Sometimes you might not take quite enough, other times you may take a little too much. It’s okay.
Just proceed with a very light hand, keeping in mind that too much cannabis may mask any benefits you might otherwise feel.
How Fast or Slow Should You Titrate?
Deciding how quickly or slowly you want to explore cannabis dosing really depends on your objectives. It really depends on the individual case.
For patients who do titrate quickly, Dr. Dustin Sulak shares his own clinical experience:
“If it's an urgent case and we want to get that high right away, it can be done in a week or less. And believe it or not, a lot of patients will actually just sleep a lot,” Sulak says.
“Some people will be unable to sleep and they'll have these anxiety or panic or even acute delirium type experiences with very high doses of THC. So, we have to be careful with that.”
For Sulak, there are a few risks new patients need to know if they do take too much THC. “One of the biggest risks is for someone to have a very unpleasant experience and then say, ‘I can't do this anymore. I'm not going to do this treatment,’ so I'm cautious around that,” he says.
And although high doses are generally safe even if quite uncomfortable, caution is advised for people who have cardiac issues.
“High doses of cannabis can lower the blood pressure and cause the heart to pump faster. There's a few other situations that I'd be very careful in. But in general, if we feel like we have a little bit of time to play around, we'll typically increase the dose by 20 to 50 percent every five or ten days, depending on how urgent the situation is,” Sulak says.
So, for example, a patient would take 5 mg of THC for ten days, and then try increasing to 7.5 or 10 mg per dose. Don’t be afraid to listen to your body and come up or down on the dosage scale as needed.
Primary Goal: Find your Minimum Effective Dose
“Every patient needs to be set up and be titrated to whatever their particular level is – in the same way with treating anything else,” says Mara Gordon, founder of Aunt Zelda’s, a California-based non-profit that has personally worked with over 1000+ patients by producing some of the top cannabis products on the market.
“But we do have some pretty good guidelines at this point,” Mara says, adding that body weight is not a factor in cannabis dosage levels.
Finding your ideal dosage amount is something you always want to be mindful about – whether you’re just starting out with cannabis or you’ve been using it for decades.
Many advanced cannabis consumers have a tendency to use way too much, going far beyond their therapeutic window for cannabis dosage.
They usually have no idea that when you consistently go beyond your ideal dosage range, the benefits start to diminish and side effects become more pronounced – fatigue, foggy thinking, lack of focus, and even depression and anxiety.
What if you have no way to accurately measure dosage?
Many people have trouble making sense of dosing guidelines and the amount of milligrams they’re consuming when dealing with cannabis flower.
If you’re consuming cannabis flower – such as smoking or vaping – it’s more practical to count the number of puffs per dosage rather than milligrams of THC or CBD.
If you find that whatever cannabis variety you have access to is very strong, you may get by with fewer puffs. Conversely, weaker varieties may require more puffs.
You’ll have to try the cannabis out, slowly at first, to understand the fewest amount of puffs you can get by with.
The advantage with inhalation is that you can fully realize the onset of effects within 5 or 10 minutes, helping you decide if you require another puff or not (edibles can take up to two hours before you notice onset of effects).
Again, more experienced consumers often make the mistake of taking several puffs within a few minutes, inhaling way more cannabis than they actually need.
Be patient, take notes, and record what works best for you and what doesn’t work so well. Keep in mind that cannabis, like many other medications, always requires a process of trial and error early on, and it’s very safe so long as it is contaminant-free.
There is virtually zero risk for lethal overdose if you accidentally take too much.
Remember: if you take too much and become uncomfortable, this is your body’s way of telling you to take less next time and that may work better for you.
And if you do take too much, you can always supplement with a little bit of CBD, which seems to help a lot of people bring the anxiety down. You can also chew on peppercorn balls, which tends to help with cannabis anxiety due to the beta-caryophyllene found in pepper.
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