By Emily Ledger
As a whole new demographic of patients begin to embrace the potential health benefits of cannabis, scientific studies and trials are becoming ever more common. From chronic pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea to spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis, cannabis is now considered as a treatment option in an increasing number of jurisdictions. But, can medical cannabis help to treat Arthritis?
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a common condition that usually causes pain and inflammation in joints. It is estimated that Arthritis, or similar conditions, currently affects around 10 million people in the UK alone. Although the condition may often be associated with older people, it can actually affect people of all ages.
The Two Most Common Forms of Arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis…
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of the condition and is thought to affect the cartilage lining of the joint. This can make movement difficult and painful. In contrast, Rheumatoid Arthritis, pain and swelling are caused by the immune system attacking affected joints.
Arthritis can also cause redness to the skin around the affected area, as well as muscle wasting.
Medical Cannabis and Arthritis
Currently, there is no cure for Arthritis, with the majority of treatment options aiming to simply alleviate symptoms of the condition. For example, pain medications such as opioids, as well as physiotherapy are often considered to relieve pain and encourage movement.
However, a growing number of patients are becoming reluctant to take prescription painkillers, as they can come with negative side effects and are often highly addictive. Cannabis has been used for thousands of years for its anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to soothe pain.
Is There Any Evidence?
Anecdotal evidence for the potential of medical cannabis in Arthritis treatment has circulated for years. Many patients have claimed that using cannabis in some form has helped with pain and inflammation caused by the condition. However, an increasing number of clinical studies are now focusing on the treatment.
The cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant are thought to interact with our body’s Endocannabinoid system. This system is made up of a collection of CB1 and CB2 receptors which, when activated, can monitor a number of physiological processes.
One study, published in the journal Rheumatology, found that CB2 receptors were found in unusually high levels in the joints of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The researchers concluded that these receptors could potentially be an effective treatment target for this form of Arthritis.
In addition, a number of animal studies have yielded positive results when assessing the effects of cannabis compounds in treating Arthritis. For example, one study assessed the efficacy of cannabidiol (CBD) in Arthritic rats. The researchers found that the cannabinoid demonstrated a promising therapeutic treatment option for Osteoarthritis.
Is Medical Cannabis Legal for Arthritis?
Medical cannabis has been legalised in a number of countries around the world. In the USA, a number of states allow medical cannabis prescriptions to be provided for Arthritic conditions. In some countries, including the UK, medical cannabis products are prescribed at the discretion of specialist doctors.
Currently, patients may be offered a prescription for medical cannabis, often through private clinics, if other treatment options have not offered satisfactory relief.