Finding the Right Strain of Medical Marijuana

By Ellen Lenox Smith, Columnist

As a medical marijuana patient and caregiver since 2007, I would like to share some thoughts and observations about a recent survey by Care by Design, a medical cannabis company based in California.

They surveyed 621 patients who had been using medical marijuana for over 30 days, asking them about:

1. The conditions for which they are taking cannabidiol (CBD) rich cannabis

2.  The ratio of CBD-to-THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) they are using

3. The impact of CBD-rich cannabis therapy on their pain, discomfort, energy, mood, and overall well being

I would like to address three areas about the survey findings, based on my personal use of medical cannabis and the patients we assist as caregivers.

“Patients with psychiatric or mood disorders and patients with diseases of or injuries to the CNS (central nervous system) system favor CBD-dominant cannabis therapies,” the survey found. “Patients with pain and inflammation favor CBD-rich cannabis therapies with more equal levels of CBD and THC.”

I have to agree with this personally and also through observation of the people we have helped find their correct medical marijuana strain. I now sleep better at night using a night oil made with a high CBD ratio. I found that when I used another strain that has a higher THC ratio, I experienced some strange head sensations that I did not enjoy. But when I use the higher CBD mix, I do not experience those odd sensations and can safely get out of bed without concerns.  

One patient, who has numerous medical issues including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has found she does well mixing a day sativa plant with the highest CBD plant we have (24% CBD/1% THC) called ACDC. She uses this mixture both day and night and finds it addresses her levels of pain more effectively. Just using the high CBD strain does not address her pain.

Another patient, a scientist, was just thrilled switching to the new high CBD plants we grow. He has found that his mood is calmer and his PTSD is under control. He is a thriving, productive worker again with no negative side effects

I correspond with many people online and one person who uses legally pure CBD found that it did address her pain. Many will not be that successful with just pure CBD and most need some THC to address pain.

The Care by Design report also states that “THC matters. A higher ratio of CBD to THC does not result in better therapeutic outcomes. Patients using the 4:1 CBD-to-THC were the most likely to report a reduction in pain or discomfort, and improvements in mood and energy.

“Patients using the 2:1 CBD-to-THC ratio reported the greatest improvement in overall wellbeing. This finding is consistent with scientific research indicating that CBD and THC interact synergistically to enhance one another’s therapeutic effect.”

I have to totally agree with the above statement. Most will not be lucky and find success without some THC in their medicine.

People tend to have a negative attitude towards THC because it makes them high and think medical marijuana strains work better without THC or lower ratios of it. But we have not had one patient that just uses the highest CBD plant alone. They appreciate the fewer “head issues” that come from reduced THC, but quickly find that their medical problems are not being addressed successfully until they use a mixture with more THC.

Finally, they survey report states that, “CBD-rich cannabis’ does not appear to have a significant impact on energy levels (as compared to pain, discomfort or mood).”

I am living proof of that, as are all the patients we have worked with using medical marijuana. When I need a boost on a tough pain afternoon, I find vaporizing or using tincture from the high CBD plant does not provide an increase in energy. However, when I use the 2:1 ratio that includes more THC, I not only get pain relief but also increased energy and interest in being involved with life again.

As the study found and we have found, you still have to experiment with dosage and ratios to find the correct type of medication strain to successfully alleviate your issues.

Using medical marijuana will never be like it is going to the pharmacy. One pill does not fit all and one strain does not fit all. No single ratio is right for all people, even when dealing with the same conditions.

Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical marijuana advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation and serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

For more information about medical marijuana or to contact the Smith's, visit their website.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

Medical marijuana is legal in 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, but is still technically illegal under federal law. Even in states where it is legal, doctors may frown upon marijuana and drop patients from their practice for using it.