Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, affecting some 50 million Americans, or 1 in 5 adults.
Many patients with arthritis live with chronic pain and may turn to cannabis or other alternative remedies to supplement or replace the many conventional painkillers and other medications prescribed by physicians.
While there are no definitive studies conclusively showing that marijuana can help arthritis patients, there are scientific reasons for believing that cannabis holds promise. Humans and other mammals have a pain-regulating system, the endocannabinoid system, which has receptors that respond to cannabinoids.
That includes plant-based compounds found in marijuana, of which THC and CBD are the best known. In addition, cannabis may help reduce inflammation, which is a significant cause of joint pain for arthritis patients, according to an article in Arthritis Today, a publication of the Arthritis Foundation.
Cannabis cream for arthritis - topicals and more
Arthritis patients can choose from among a range of options, including CBD-based topical ointments, creams and patches, which have no psychoactive effect, as well as tinctures, pills and edibles, which can take a while to kick in but may have long-last impact. Vaping and smoking cannabis also are popular among arthritis patients who don’t mind feeling euphoric or who may be looking for a good night’s sleep. Cannabis cream is recommended for Arthritis patients who do not want to ingest or inhale CBD based products.
Cannabis also works for rheumatoid arthritis
While some rheumatologists are skeptical about the benefits of cannabis, arthritis patients have responded in droves to the growing availability of medical marijuana, now available in 29 states, the District of Columbia and across Canada. Severe arthritis is the No. 1 reason Canadians seek authorization to possess medicinal cannabis, according to a report including an Israeli study in which most users found relief from marijuana, which they used by smoking, vaping, or consuming in concentrated oils. Studies have also shown that marijuana may help improve the efficacy of opiates, allowing patients to reduce their dosage of these more dangerous painkillers.
A major study is under way in Canada that will test the safety and efficacy of cannabis in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study will test exposure to six different types of cannabis through a vaporizer, with varying levels of THC and CBD. Results are expected in 2019.
Patients with arthritis interested in using cannabis should discuss it with their physician and make sure to continue their use of any disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or DMARDs, which have been proven effective in preventing joint damage and reducing the risk of long-term complications. Many physicians support the use of medical cannabis, even though they caution that quality and consistency of the product can vary widely.
“The bottom line is, marijuana is a very safe drug,” Dr. Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Arthritis Today. “When we give patients with chronic pain a prescription … we say, ‘Start with one, try two or three if that doesn’t work.’ It’s the same with medical marijuana: Start low and see how it goes.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.