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  • Drew Herb Lesser

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain with Medical Cannabis

Updated: Dec 20, 2023


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a debilitating autoimmune disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. The condition causes chronic pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the joints and other parts of the body. Conventional treatments for RA include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). However, these treatments often have significant side effects and are not effective for all patients. In recent years, medical cannabis has emerged as a potential alternative treatment for RA. In this article, we will explore how medical cannabis is used to treat RA and discuss studies that support this treatment.


Medical cannabis is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant and contains over 100 different chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. The two most well-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound that produces the “high” associated with cannabis use, while CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and anti-anxiety properties. Medical cannabis is typically consumed in the form of dried flowers, oils or capsules.


One of the most promising ways in which medical cannabis can be used to treat RA is by reducing inflammation. Inflammation is a key driver of RA symptoms, and CBD has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory properties. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology found that CBD has the potential to reduce joint inflammation in animal models of RA. The study also found that CBD can suppress the immune response that causes inflammation, suggesting that it may be a promising treatment for RA in humans.


In addition to reducing inflammation, medical cannabis may also help to alleviate pain associated with RA. THC has been shown to have analgesic properties, and some studies have suggested that it may be more effective at reducing pain than conventional pain medications. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Pain found that cannabis use was associated with significant reductions in pain intensity and pain interference in patients with chronic pain. Another study published in the European Journal of Pain found that cannabis use was associated with a significant reduction in pain and improvement in sleep quality in patients with fibromyalgia, a condition that is often comorbid with RA.


Another potential benefit of medical cannabis for RA patients is its ability to improve sleep. RA can cause significant sleep disturbances, and poor sleep can exacerbate RA symptoms. THC has been shown to have sedative properties, and some studies have suggested that it may be effective at improving sleep in patients with chronic pain. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that medical cannabis use was associated with significant improvements in sleep quality and sleep duration in patients with chronic pain.


While the potential benefits of medical cannabis for RA are promising, it is important to note that there are still many unanswered questions about its safety and efficacy. One concern is the potential for cannabis use to exacerbate underlying psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Another concern is the potential for cannabis use to interact with other medications commonly used to treat RA, such as DMARDs and NSAIDs.


Despite these concerns, there is growing evidence to suggest that medical cannabis may be a safe and effective treatment option for RA. A 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Rheumatology found that cannabis use was associated with significant improvements in pain, sleep, and quality of life in patients with RA. The review also found that cannabis use was generally well-tolerated, with few adverse effects reported.


Conclusion

  • Medical cannabis has emerged as a potential alternative treatment for RA, offering promising benefits for reducing inflammation, alleviating pain, and improving sleep.

  • While there are still concerns about its safety and efficacy, the growing body of evidence suggests that cannabis use may be a safe and effective treatment option for RA.


As more research is conducted, it is likely that medical cannabis will become an increasingly important tool in the fight against this debilitating autoimmune disorder. Ultimately, it is important for patients with RA to work closely with their GP's or health care providers, to determine the best treatment plan for their individual needs and to consider medical cannabis as a potential treatment option.


Disclaimer:

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and is provided for educational purposes only. It should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The author is NOT a Doctor. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.






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