Cannabis topicals offer alternative to opioids for pain treatment

Some users of cannabis topicals say the treatment is an effective alternative to opioids like percocet and vicodin. (KPTV)

The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, with the use and abuse of prescription pain pills in the U.S. leading to an overdose death every 19 minutes.

Acute pain is a huge medical problem, and now some pain specialists are promoting cannabis topicals to treat pain.

It's marijuana without a high, and patients rub it right on their bodies.

Jessica Stines uses a cannabis topical called Bud Rub. She is a jammer for two roller derby teams in Portland where she is known as “Starta Ruckus,” and knows all about pain.

Stines has broken knuckles, sprained wrists, torn tendons. She does not want to take conventional, possibly addicting, medicine.

So with a medical marijuana card in hand, about a year ago she started using the cannabis topical.

“It relieves the inflammation, the pain,” Stines said. “It just feels really good when you put it on your injuries."

There is no high with the topical, since it is just rubbed on the skin. It's either a salve or oil.

Bud Rub does have a slight cannabis smell, although it's largely masked with cocoa.

Fox 12 talked to others who use cannabis topicals, some of whom came to it after trying the more mainstream medicines such as percocet and vicodin.

Skye Rapaport is the founder of Bud Rub. He started using cannabis topicals because of a terrible pain in his hips from his job working construction.

"I could take it and put it on my hips. My hips would loosen up,” he said. “My head was still normal. I could still do what I had to do.”

Skye said he now gets pain relief with no psychoactive effect.

While many swear by these topicals, there are other that question if there is any scientific evidence that they really work.

Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, there has not been much testing on cannabis topicals.

Portland naturopath Dr. Greg Nigh said there has been some study, and that the outcomes so far have been dramatic, because cannabis "modifies the way our nerves carry pain signals."

Some topicals do contain a small amount of THC, the chemical in marijuana that gives users a high. It could affect some very-sensitive users, and could be picked up in a drug test.

Dr. Nigh believes the medical community may one day eventually turn to these topicals instead of automatically prescribing opioid pain pills.

"This is kind of inching its way toward being a central therapy," he said.

Right now it is only legal to use a cannabis topical in Oregon if a user has a medical marijuana card. However, beginning June 2, any Oregonian aged 21 or over will be able to legally buy and use these treatments.

Copyright 2016 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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