How to Sub Cannabis for OTC Pain Relievers

There’s a lot of focus on substituting cannabis for serious drugs like opioids and sleeping pills, or for recreational vices like alcohol. But we’re finding more and more people are substituting cannabis for plain ol’ OTC painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. If the idea of using cannabis products for things like headaches, fever, joint pain, or minor aches – all of the stuff you’d typically manage with run-of-the-mill pain pills – sounds appealing, here’s what you need to know.

First, You’re Smart

While our society has a tendency to pop non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (otherwise known as NSAID, the mostly commonly used drugs in the world) like aspirin and ibuprofen for pretty much anything, they aren’t without their risks. The FDA warns that taking these medications can mean a greater risk of things like heart attack and stroke. Even the standard alternative to NSAID, acetaminophen, can cause liver damage. Crazy, right?

Other potential side effects of these pain relievers include dizziness, rash, and heartburn, with gastrointestinal bleeding standing out as one of the main complications from over-use of NSAIDs. That’s especially concerning when you think about how easy it is to keep knocking back pills in your search for relief.

So, how about an alternative?

The Cannabis Substitute

As research continues to link cannabis to analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects in the body, CBD is increasingly being seen as the potent alternative to NSAIDs that it is really is. That’s because the endocannabinoid system controls pain both at the central nervous system level and in peripheral systems for some of the painful symptoms of inflammation. Cannabinoids introduced into the system, then, can modulate pain levels. CBD in particular reduces the inflammatory response because it lowers the immune system’s production of cytokines and inhibits receptors of pain perception.

Minimal side effects are another bonus. CBD in particular has no impact on heart rate or blood pressure, and it won’t negatively affect the gastrointestinal system either. It doesn’t cause dizziness, nor will people experience the psychoactive element related to THC. There is no risk of overdose with CBD, and even in high doses, it’s very well tolerated.

Another benefit? CBD comes in so many forms! From CBD tinctures and capsules to edibles, topicals, and CBD-rich strains, there are multiple ways to consume, so you can pick what’s right for you.

Getting Started

To start swapping out pain relievers with cannabis, narrow down your consumption method preference. Then, start slowly with low doses, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5mg per day. This can be increased over days or weeks until you find a dosage that controls your pain. The big cautionary note when introducing cannabis for pain is to be aware that it might affect how other drugs are metabolized. If you’re on other medications, it’s wise to get the all-clear from your doctor first. When you’re shopping, remember that some CBD products contain THC for an entourage effect. If you’re not at all interested in THC in any of your products, bring it up with your budtender for CBD-only recommendations.