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Is Vaporizing Cannabis Better Than Smoking For Treating Pain?

Vaporizing Cannabis
Written by Corre Addam

Most people are aware that cannabis can be used to alleviate various types of pain, but how does the method of consumption come into play? Is it possible to increase the benefits of these treatments by simply changing the way you take cannabis?

There are countless ways to get your dose of cannabis therapy; smoking, edible products, capsules, concentrates, tinctures, and vaporizing. Vaporizing, or vaping as it’s commonly referred to, is actually considered one of the safest methods for consumption, since patients are exposed to significantly fewer toxins when plant matter is vaporized as opposed to burned. Not only is it a safer way to use cannabis, but studies show that it’s also an extremely effective way to manage pain.

Study at the University of California

Most recently, a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study concluded that vaporized cannabis is a powerful antinociceptive for patients who suffer from neuropathic pain. The study was led by Barth Wilsey at University of California, Davis campus and published in The Journal of Pain. Patients were given a small dose of vaporized cannabis with low levels of THC, either 3.53 percent or 1.29 percent. Both doses were effective, and patients were able to continue taking their other medications without any reported side effects.

The study was open to a wide array of participants; anyone age 18-70 with a VAS pain intensity greater than 3/10, a negative drug screen (for IV drug use), and of course, symptoms of pain due to reflex sympathetic dystrophy, peripheral neuropathy, post-herpetic neuralgia, post-stroke pain, multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury.

“Both the low and medium doses proved to be salutary analgesics for the heterogeneous collection of neuropathic pain conditions studied,” researchers stated. “Both active study medications provided statistically significant 30% reductions in pain intensity when compared to placebo.”

Clinical Trial in Israel

Wilsey isn’t the only one who has carried out extensive research on this subject. That same year, a team of Israeli scientists conducted a clinical trial of their own. It was published in the Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, and the results are definitive; within a few minutes of taking the vaporized cannabis, patients reported feeling significant relief from their chronic nerve pain.

According to the study, “A significant 45 percent reduction in pain intensity was noted 20 minutes post inhalation (P = .001), turning back to baseline within 90 minutes. Tolerable, lightheadedness, lasting 15–30 minutes and requiring no intervention, was the only reported adverse event. Patients were given only a small 15.1 ± 0.1 mg dose of cannabis.”

Why are Vaporizers Safer and More Effective?

Vaporizers work by heating the cannabis enough to evaporate the cannabinoids, but not so much that the plant matter burns and combusts. Therefore, people who vaporize aren’t exposed to the toxins and carcinogens that are found in smoke. Ninety-five percent of cannabis vapor is made up of pure cannabinoids, whereas only 12 percent of smoke consists of clean, carcinogen-free cannabinoids.

It’s also thought that the onset of pain relief is considerably quicker when vaporizing. Since the vapor is so pure and our lungs rapidly absorb the cannabinoids, it makes sense that the effects would be felt faster than if one were smoking cannabis. Also, since vaping starts providing relief within minutes, patients can control their intake dose with ease, since they don’t have to wait long to feel the effects and they can stop once they’re satisfied.

Lastly, a large study from 2013 also shows that vaporizing cannabis resulted in the least amount of unwanted side effects compared to smoking, eating edibles, and other intake methods. All these health benefits, coupled with the clinical trials conducted on pain management, lead to the conclusion that vaporizing is not only the preferred consumption method for pain relief, but possibly many other conditions as well.

[Featured image credit: Pixabay]

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About the author

Corre Addam

Addam spends the lion's share of his day fixated on his computer screen. When he isn't in front of his computer, you'll most likely find him editing or researching his next fascinating article on his smartphone or tablet. When he manages to pull himself away from technology, you'll find him chilling hard somewhere, probably under a tree with an ice-cold Iced-tea, pondering life...