Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) Increase Heart Disease and Stroke: Another Reason to Try Cannabis
July 27, 2015
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 Medicine 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)](http://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 traditional 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 Medical Center Poll found that 6 percent of chronic pain sufferers took cannabis to relieve their pain.
Side Effects of Chronic Pain Treatment
The FDA announcement came as a result of accumulating research linking 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 took NSAIDS.
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 conditions, including:
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 gastrointestinal toxicity 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.