Arthritis is a medical issue that has been plaguing mankind for centuries. It is alarming to note that nearly 1 in 2 people may develop symptomatic knee arthritis by the age of 85. Patients suffering the disabling illness are always on the hunt for better and more effective treatments for managing arthritis. They have a desperate need for relieving the symptoms so they can live normally, and carry out their day to day tasks.
People who suffer from arthritis usually manage their everyday struggle with pharmaceutical drugs. However, there are promising natural remedies or alternatives that have less or no side effects now being recognized in modern medicine. Among those natural alternatives is cannabis.
In this article, we will find out how cannabis can help arthritis patients manage their symptoms, as well discuss the various studies conducted which support its use in this area.
Before we dive into how cannabis aids arthritis symptoms, it’s best to first understand arthritis and why it is one of the most common ailments affecting our aging population.
Arthritis in a Nutshell
image courtesy of arthritistreatmentsonline.com
One way to get to know Arthritis is through statistics. Arthritis is dubbed one of the biggest causes of disability and can greatly impact your life.
- More than 50 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Some choose to get their illness undiagnosed and take over-the-counter medication.
- One in five people above the age of 18 has arthritis. That means it is likely that you have a family member suffering the ailment.
- About 300,000 children have arthritis or are born with a rheumatic condition.
- An estimated 67 million people would have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by the year 2030.
- Adults between 18 to 64 years old are reported to be less likely employed due to arthritis pain. This includes different types of professions; from desk jobs to manual labor.
- Arthritis sufferers file sick leave due to the illness. They are unable to report to work due to the severe pain that limits their ability to walk or even stand up. Which makes them unable to perform their tasks at work.
- Hospitals record a whopping 1 million hospitalizations every year and 44 million outpatient visits from arthritis sufferers.
There are over more than a hundred types of Arthritis, but here are the most common types affecting so many lives today:
- Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. This type of arthritis deteriorates the patient’s cartilage. It targets the hips, knees, hands, neck and the lower back. It is mostly known as a sign of aging and a common illness. There is no current cure. Patients often buy over the counter pain medication for relief.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a different kind. It is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints. It attacks persons of all ages and causes debilitating symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, symptoms of Arthritis may include but are not limited to the following:
- Inability to use the hand or walk
- Stiffness of joints
- Malaise and fatigue
- Weight loss
- Difficulty sleeping due to recurring pain
- Muscle and joint pains
- Difficulty moving the joint
Using Cannabis for Arthritis Pain Relief
In 2,000 B.C., the Chinese called cannabis the medicine that “undoes rheumatism.” At a certain point in North American history, those who suffered arthritis were administered marijuana for managing arthritis and the pain. Although there are multiple types of arthritis, the general need above all is to minimize or eliminate pain.
Studies show that the two cannabinoids, CBD and THC in marijuana are proven to be effective for arthritis. CBD (cannabidiol) is beneficial for patients suffering rheumatoid arthritis and its autoimmune conditions. The effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) on the other hand targets pain.
THC in cannabis also minimizes depression and anxiety.
Depression and anxiety often stem from arthritis sufferers whose mobility had been affected. This is why a lot of medical marijuana research focuses on the relationship between cannabis and arthritis.
Depression and anxiety are also a secondary ailment for RA patients. RA causes loss of appetite and lack of sleep. Patients who connect cannabis and arthritis together found an increase in appetite. This is a good sign especially when these patients need all the nutrients they can get.
Currently, arthritis sufferers use pharmaceutical drugs for pain relief. However, using these drugs can have long-term effects that cause more harm than good. Using marijuana for arthritis pain can replace that. Cannabis is useful especially when patients need to wean themselves from pharmaceutical drugs.
However, it is important to note that some patients cannot remove pharmaceutical drugs from their daily lives, there is still a need for them. However, using cannabis can ease the drugs’ negative side effects when managing arthritis.
Studies on Managing Arthritis with Cannabis Show Progress
Is there a way to cure those ailing joints?
As of today, there is no cure for arthritis. Studies that aim to use cannabis for its anti-inflammatory and pain relief are underway but with no cure, better treatments for managing arthritis is still in high demand.
Dr. Jason McDougall, a professor of pharmacology and anesthesia at Dalhousie University in Halifax, finds the use of marijuana for arthritis invaluable. Dr. McDougall’s study focuses on the use of marijuana to repair arthritic joints and its relief.
The Arthritis Society, according to Leafly, supports Dr. McDougall’s study and awarded him a grant. The grant enables a three-year study between cannabis and arthritis. The study aims to investigate if marijuana cannabinoids is not just relieving the pain signals in the brain. But if it also works to repair the arthritic joint.
With the reinforcement of the Arthritis Society, McDougall explains that the nerves of arthritis sufferers are like wires without coating. Which is why they are feeling a lot of pain. His hypothesis banks on administering cannabis-like molecules to the nerves to repair and minimize pain. Currently, he finds that cannabis molecules attach themselves to nerve receptors and controls the signal that sends out pain. This is similar to the case of Katie Marsh.
How Does Medical Cannabis Impact the Lives of Arthritis Patients?
Katie Marsh of Madawaska, Maine is a long time sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis. She was prescribed prednisone and antibiotics. Her doctors also wrote her anti-rheumatic drugs for her ailment. However, the side effects were more severe than the ailment itself.
Seeking help from other experts, Marsh took to juicing raw cannabis. After making the smoothie, immediate results begin to show. In a few days time, she stops taking prednisone and pain killers. In just 11 months of drinking the raw marijuana for arthritis, her arthritis is in remission.
Rachel Janzen of Kingsville, Ontario says she wants to explore cannabis for arthritis to manage the debilitating pain. She suffers RA and calls it a lonely disease. Her latest attack left her at the hospital and all types of medications are not working.
“I am very hopeful that medical cannabis is an answer to my symptoms… facing a lifetime with rheumatoid arthritis is frightening, to say the least.”
The Arthritis Society in Canada is helping Canadians manage pain through medical cannabis by creating guidelines on how to get the treatment. Janzen hopes to get the treatment to live a life with no arthritic pain.