For Pain and Breathlessness: Is Any Medication Helpful?

Medications to Relieve Both Pain and Breathlessness

Dear Dr. Mahler: Working on trying to get off pain medication-in addition to COPD I have hip and back pain issues. My doctor has been changing the drugs and manufacturers – they don’t agree with me, Considering cannibus- do you know of any specific type that might help me for both pain and breathlessness? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated- thank you. Gerald from Miami, OH Dear Gerald: Your question is quite relevant because many individuals who have COPD also suffer from pain. The first question that I ask is do you know the cause(s) of pain in your hip and back? This is important because certain problems may be treated with surgery. For example, hip replacement is possible for severe arthritis of the hip. Also, back surgery (laminectomy) can be performed for some individuals with spinal stenosis. I encourage you to ask your health care professionals about why you are experiencing pain. It is possible that an evaluation with an orthopedic physician may be appropriate if not already done.

Can Cannabis Relieve Pain?

On July 5, 2017, I posted information about the two major components of the the marijuana plant (which is officially called Cannabis sativa)  –  cannabidiol (abbreviated CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (abbreivated THC). CBD is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects, while THC provides the “high” that people experience when smoking or eating marijuana. Here is information from the July 5 post:
“CBD oil is taken by mouth, rubbed on the skin, or may be inhaled. One of the main uses is to relieve pain and stiffness. In one study involving rats and mice, CBD significantly reduced chronic inflammation and pain. CBD is already in use for humans who have multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia – both of which can cause chronic pain.”
Can cannabis sativa relieve pain and breathlessness?

Cannabis sativa plant

Can Cannabis Relieve Breathing Difficulty?

To my knowledge, there is no evidence that either CBD or THC makes t easier to breathe. In the book Breathe Easy (published June 2017), I provide information on medical treatments for COPD (Chapter 5) as well as other treatments to relieve shortness of breath (Chapter 9). Information about the book is available under the heading Books on my website. Are There Medications to Help Both Pain and Breathlessness? Opioids are narcotic medications that are used to treat both pain and breathing difficulty. I have two posts on my website about similar questions to yours. The posts were on June 29, 2016, and April 22, 2017. I suggest that you check this out by typing in “Opioids” in the Search function of the website. I hope that this information is helpful to you. Best wishes, Donald A. Mahler, M.D.

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.