Cannabis May Help Treat Sickle Cell Anemia

October 14, 2022

Summary: Studies show that medical marijuana or cannabis can help in a range of health conditions. It is especially good for managing chronic pain conditions. Unlike over-the-counter CBD products, medical marijuana is high in euphoria-causing THC. However, THC is also responsible for its better pain-killing effect. A new study shows that medical marijuana may have a role in managing chronic pain associated with sickle cell anemia. These findings are especially relevant, considering that broader medical cannabis prescription may help counter opioid epidemics.

Humans have used cannabis for making textiles, extracting oil, recreation, religious ceremonies, treating disease conditions, overcoming pain, and more for thousands of years. Traditional healers knew that cannabis could help manage many health conditions. However, all changes in the early 20th century due to the narrow outlook of some researchers and policymakers resulted in a complete ban on cannabis use. Making it illegal to grow, possess, and use cannabis.

Nonetheless, people continued to use and explore cannabis in many nations. Finally, researchers realized that a complete ban on cannabis was a mistake. How many countries have legalized cannabis. Although most nations have legalized just low THC hemp extract rich in cannabidiol (CBD), many governments are now legalizing even high THC cannabis strains.

CBD pain treatment is good and can help reduce anxiety, spasticity, pains, and convulsions, help manage metabolic disorders, and more. However, new studies suggest that THC, a substance in cannabis that causes high addiction, also has numerous good health effects. Moreover, it appears that when several cannabinoids are used along with THC, they have more significant health benefits due to a so-called entourage effect. The entourage effect is a phenomenon when combining multiple phytocompounds results in a new kind of health effect.

This entourage effect is possible because it appears that cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant have different kinds of properties. Sometimes, they may even have the opposite effect. For example, some cannabinoids may suppress appetite, while others stimulate. Now, new research indicates that high THC cannabis or marijuana extract may be quite good for managing sickle cell patients. But, of course, using marijuana or full-spectrum high THC cannabis extract is not new, as science has long known that marijuana is excellent for severe and chronic pain conditions.

Cannabis may help overcome the pain associated with sickle cell anemia

Sickle cell is a rare genetic disorder that mainly affects African and Hispanic people. As the name suggests, a person has sickle-shaped red blood cells in the condition. The primary sign and symptom of sickle cell anemia is that these red blood cells are brittle, carry less oxygen, and deprive tissues of oxygen supply, causing episodes of severe pain.

Of course, cannabis high in THC would not help manage severe complications of sickle cell disease. It will not affect the course of the disease. However, a new study suggests that it is an effective and safe way to treat chronic pains present in the condition. It was a pilot study on 23 adults living with sickle cell anemia and chronic pain. Researchers at UC Irvine and UC San Francisco decided to check if cannabis could help in sickle cell anemia treatment, as they were exploring safer options for prolonged opioid use.

In the study, researchers gave patients vaporized cannabis containing equal amounts of CBD and THC and compared its efficacy with a placebo. The study found that cannabis helped gradually, significantly enhancing the quality of life and reducing chronic pain. For example, those who inhaled cannabis extract had lower pain scores after five days. In addition, they slept better, walked better, and had fewer mood-related issues caused by chronic pain.

Doctors say that although these are early findings, nonetheless, these are relevant findings as America is struggling with opioid epidemics. As a result, researchers are looking for other effective ways to treat chronic pain. Moreover, doctors are also now reluctant to prescribe opioids for chronic pain.

Further, it is vital to note that medical cannabis high in THC is legal in 33 US states, though one can get it only through a doctor’s prescription. However, there are still some challenges to be overcome, as only four states in the US allow treating sickle cell disease-associated pain with prescription marijuana. Nonetheless, this study is a step forward, as it shows that cannabis can be helpful in treating pain in a range of health conditions, including sickle cell disease.

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA