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Cannabis vs. Pharmaceuticals: Tahoe Edition

Growing up in Tahoe there a few things you become familiar with: being outdoors and all the the wondrous adventures available to you, being extremely

Medicine Box // July 14, 2016

Growing up in Tahoe there a few things you become familiar with: being outdoors and all the the wondrous adventures available to you, being extremely active in all seasons, taking on multiple physical activities a day, seeing stars and the milky way, cannabis is your friend, and when you play hard you usually fall hard too. A significant number of Tahoe locals have either been injured or know someone who has. We all know the risks of our sports, so having a plan to deal with injuries is key.

A Little History: An Injured Athlete and a Witness to the Cycle

As a teen, my days were filled with movement — climbing trees, chasing snakes, rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, or playing soccer. Off the top of my head, I know at least 10 people who have been prescribed heavy doses of opiates after a sports-related injury. Some of them became addicted to those narcotics, adding a new problem to the original injury.

For those that fell into the trap of opioid dependency, breaking that addiction was more challenging than the original injury. For many athletes, prescriptions can be refilled for up to six months — long enough to create an addiction. So how do we break this cycle of addiction? We educate ourselves on the alternatives!

(I was very fortunate to grow up in a family that was forward thinking; using cannabis to ease my pain and heal my body was not looked down upon or seen as taboo. I understand this is the not reality for everyone, but our goal is to help people educated choices by sharing our knowledge and personal experiences. Please talk to your healthcare provider before changing your treatment plan.)

A Bit About Opiates

Our bodies naturally produce opiates in the form endorphins. Endorphins are the compounds that give us feelings of pleasure and pain. They communicate with the nervous system to send signals to our brain that we then respond to in the form of a given “feeling.” Activities that naturally stimulate this system are exercise, pain, love, and sex, among others. When our bodies experience pain, a natural release of endorphins happens to ease our pain during the interval between the moment of injury and treating that injury. Once we introduce pharmaceutical opiates, the body compensates by producing fewer endorphins.

Why Cannabis is a Safe Alternative to Opiates

Cannabis also stimulates the natural production of endorphins. As we mentioned in Shifting the Stigma of Cannabis Users, cannabinoids communicate with the body via CB1 receptors. It stimulates dopamine, a neurotransmitter found in the brain. Dopamine is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter because of its ties to pleasure and pain. A 2012 study on long-term cannabis use found that there is no change in the body’s natural production of dopamine, so people do not become addicted to cannabis on a chemical level the way the can with opiates.

Using cannabis to treat pain and discomfort does require some knowledge of strains, a doctor’s recommendation, and dose-specific treatment (like any other medicine). For more information on how to get your medical card, and where to find a physician near you that works with these prescriptions, please contact [email protected] — we would love to be of service to you.

Cannabis Strains That Are Great for Physical Pain

  • AC/DC: This strain is high in both THC and CBD, so it’s great for inflammation and general discomfort.
  • Blackberry Kush: This is an indica. Strains like Blackberry Kush and other indicas are an excellent ally in pain relief.
  • Harlequin: A sativa with a strong CBD content. CBD is not psychoactive and it can actually limit the psychoactive effects of THC. Because of Harlequin’s ratio of CBD to THC, this is a great strain to use for daytime pain relief.
  • Redwood Kush: Eases cramps and stiff muscles, making it very helpful for the recovery process.
  • Cataract Kush: This is a heavier strain that is great for those that have experienced spinal cord injuries.

For more information on strain-specific remedies, Leafly is a great resource.


This article is not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any ailments or disease. We want everyone to know what their options are, but we are not doctors and we cannot help you determine what’s best for you and your body.

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