On July 10, 2015, the Federal Drug Administration
(FDA) announced that
additional language will be added to the labels of non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) warning of the increased risk of heart
attack and stroke. NSAIDs include ibuprofen (i.e., Motrin®), naproxen
(i.e., Aleve®) and celecobix (Celebrix®).
Millions of Americans routinely take NSAIDs for pain and inflammation.
The American College of Preventive
reports that analgesics, including NSAIDs, are the most frequently used
over-the-counter (OTC) medication in use today.
Treating Chronic Pain
According to the [National Institutes of Health
(NIH)](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92525/# ch1.s3), about 116
million American adults suffer from chronic pain, which is defined as
pain that lasts more than 12 weeks. The most common treatment for
chronic pain is the use of NSAIDs.
Cannabis has also been a historically
treatment for chronic pain; the Chinese were using medical marijuana to
treat pain in 2900 BC. Use has continued today, albeit more informally
due to the legalities of use. A 2005 ABC News, USA Today, and Stanford
found that 6 percent of chronic pain sufferers took cannabis to relieve
Side Effects of Chronic Pain Treatment
The FDA announcement came as a result of accumulating
NSAID use to heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Risk of these
conditions increased with:
- NSAID dosage
- Use for just a few weeks
- Prolonged use
- History of heart disease or other risk factors, particularly in
those over 65 years
The label will also reflect the still increased risk among people with
no heart disease history or risk factors and the higher mortality rate
for those patients who within the first year following a heart attack
The Case for Cannabis
Dealing day to day with chronic pain can be exhausting. Those who suffer
from chronic pain are at an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
They are also at risk of increased physiological changes, such as higher
blood pressure, which can increase their risk of heart disease. Taking
pain-relief medication that increases health risks further seems
counterproductive, if not dangerous.
The pain relief offered by medical marijuana may be a viable
alternative. Cannabis relieves pain by interrupting the uptake of
endocannabinoids in pain circuits and through reductions in the
inflammatory response. Cannabis has been shown to be effective in
treating patients with pain from many
In addition, cannabis may be safer than NSAIDs; cannabis has never been
linked to heart disease or stroke, nor has it been linked to the
that NSAIDs labels currently warn against. The new FDA warning on NSAIDs
provides further support for the use of cannabis to help those in pain.