Medicinal Cannabis May Help Retired AFL Players Manage Chronic Pain
For former Australian football player Ryan Gale, his previous years of athletic glory have been replaced by a harsh new reality. Gale lives with chronic pain from his injuries and had to undergo hip replacement surgery at just 33 years old. Today, Gale and other former athletes hope to benefit from a medical cannabis trial that is underway at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne and Emerald Clinics in Perth.
“I don't think I've ever had a pain-free week somewhere,” Gale told 7NEWS.
Each of the patients, who took at least 60 milligrams of morphine per day for chronic pain, showed “significant improvement” in pain interference scores. The trials are being conducted by Zelira Therapeutics, a company specializing in medical cannabis, and aim to demonstrate the effectiveness of medical cannabis for patients who have traditionally relied on opioids for their chronic pain.
Seven patients participated in phase 1 of the study, receiving one dose of medical cannabis on day one, and two doses per day for an additional six days. Each of the patients, who previously took at least 60 milligrams of morphine per day for chronic pain, showed “significant improvement” in pain interference scores, which measures the impact of chronic pain on daily functioning.
“Not only have we found that our cannabinoid formulation is safe for them and does not cause serious side effects, but we have also seen promising positive effects on their physical and mental well-being,” said Dr Richard Hopkins, Managing Director of Zelira Therapeutics.
For Mr. Gale, medical cannabis, which is legal in Australia since 2016, helps her make the most of her after-play days. “It's so much better than taking other things,” he told 7NEWS.
Can Cannabis Replace Prescription Drugs?
In order for a prescription drug to be marketed, it needs to be thoroughly studied, first in animals and then in humans, in clinical trials. Safety, efficacy and risks must be determined. But as anyone who has seen an advertisement for a prescription drug knows, there are always side effects. Stopping a prescription carries risks. And, of course, there are the risks of addiction.
Prescription opioid pain relievers have seen a dramatic increase from the common pill to a massive public health crisis. At the same time, the perception of marijuana has moved away from its role as an initiation drug and towards its use as a medicine.
Today, several studies Recent reports show that public opinion is changing to the point of substituting cannabis for opioids and other prescription drugs that present high risks or low efficacy. In addition to opioids, drug substitution is more common for benzodiazepines, such as Valium or Klonopin, and antidepressants.
The benefits of switching from a substance to an addictive drug seem obvious, but there is a serious hidden risk involved in doing so without talking to a doctor. For example, when it comes to CBD, its interactions with prescription drugs have hardly been studied. Complications can occur as a result of drug interactions and withdrawal symptoms, resulting in incorrect dosages and potentially unknown side effects.
Cannabis treatment is widely studied as partial or full opioid substitution, but research is only beginning to focus on its possible use to reduce benzodiazepine use.
Not surprisingly, opioids are the most common among pharmaceutical substitutions, at 35%. Antidepressants and anxiety medications follow behind at 21%. Detailed questions revealed that chronic pain and mental health issues were the two most common reasons participants took cannabis, both at just under 30%.