Opiates vs. Medical Marijuana to Treat Syringomyelia


Opiates vs. Medical Marijuana to Treat Syringomyelia

After a spinal injury, other serious complications can arise that put a patient’s health at risk — one of these is syringomyelia. The main characteristic associated with this disorder is chronic and intractable pain. Although there are surgical options, most patients opt for heavy opiates to deal with this debilitating symptom.

Opiates do help mitigate the pain felt by syringomyelia patients, but they also impair a patient’s ability to live full, productive lives because of their heavy sedative qualities. They also are quite dangerous for long-term use because of a whole slew of adverse side effects that impact both body and mind. Not to mention, opiates are addictive and can lead to pain pill dependence.

Many patients feel medical marijuana is taboo because it is federally banned. However, states across the U.S. are legalizing it for medicinal use because they see its incredible potential. It has many reported health benefits and is not nearly as dangerous or addictive as prescription opiates. Cannabis is a tried and true analgesic, and patients use it to treat the pain associated with several conditions, including syringomyelia.

What Causes the Pain Associated with Syringomyelia?

Although syringomyelia is not life-threatening, it does threaten the quality of life because of the extreme pain caused by the disorder.

The leading cause for syringomyelia is some sort of trauma to the spine, like a car accident or fall. But it can also be caused by:

  • Meningitis
  • Hemorrhage
  • Tumors
  • Arachnoiditis
  • Arnold-Chiari malformation

These symptoms affect the spine, which can cause a cyst can form in the spinal cord. These cysts, also called syrinx, become filled with spinal fluid and often grow. When this happens, it creates pressure on the spinal cord which can result in damage to that area.

Shooting pain can be felt starting at the sight of the syrinx and traveling up the spine. As the cyst grows, it creates more pressure, which increases the potential of more injury and increased pain. Depending on the location of the syrinx on the spinal cord, it can also cause other symptoms such as a loss of nerve sensation, bowel dysfunction, vocal cord paralysis and more.

Adverse Side Effects of Heavy Opiates

Surgery is the most common way to treat syringomyelia, by draining the syrinx and reducing pressure to the spinal cord. But surgery comes with its own risks, such as spinal cord injuries, hemorrhaging, blockages, and infection. So, in some cases, doctors hold off and monitor a patient’s condition.

Even if a patient’s syringomyelia is considered minor, it can still cause excruciating pain. That’s why doctors will often prescribe the use of pain relievers, including opiates. Opiates do help patients with pain management, but some severe side effects should be taken into consideration, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Respiratory depression
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Digestive issues
  • Liver damage
  • Brain damage
  • Paranoia

One of the more dangerous complications that occur is an extreme dependence on opiates. As the body adjusts to the drug, patients can develop a tolerance. This leads to an increased dosage to maintain the drug’s effectiveness — that’s why addiction and abuse are quite common among pain patients.

Managing Syringomyelia Pain with Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana is an excellent alternative to prescription opiates. Most of the states that allow patients to seek cannabis treatments have chronic pain as a qualifying condition. When compared to the prescription pain medications given to syringomyelia patients, it is safe, effective and non-addictive.

Before cannabis was legalized, people suffering from painful conditions were taking advantage of its analgesic properties by self-medicating. Now that states are regulating its use, the strains available are safe, natural and specially designed to tackle specific symptoms.

Syringomyelia can cause different types of pain, including:

  • Neuropathic (nerve pain)
  • Aches
  • Headaches
  • Inflammation

Medical marijuana isn’t limited to the treatment of one type of pain — it can help with all of them. Plus, it is not known to have the long-term damage associated with opiates.

Although some patients use cannabis treatments to avoid syringomyelia surgery, all matters related to your health care should be discussed with your doctor. If you’re interested in learning more about your medical marijuana options and how cannabis may be right for you, contact a marijuana-certified doctor in your stateor reach out to a nearby dispensary.

Additional Syringomyelia & Cannabis Resources

For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Syringomyelia, check out our resources: