By LeeWEpstein

July 27, 2020


Cannabis is emerging as an effective treatment for chronic pain relief for people with sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease is little known. It affects 400,000 births per year worldwide. This hereditary genetic blood disorder materializes through a mutation in our DNA that leads our body to produce abnormal hemoglobin that deforms red blood cells, making them “stiffer and more fragile. For the moment, no treatment can cure it, although bone marrow transplants and gene therapy offer hope.

Cannabis’s effectiveness in reducing pain increases over time

American researchers have found that cannabis can relieve patients of the pain caused by sickle cell disease.

These test results show that vaporized cannabis appears to be generally safe,” says Kalpna Gupta, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco, who led the study. They also suggest that patients with sickle cell disease may be able to reduce it with cannabis.

 The results published in the journal Jama Network Open. Currently, the main treatments to alleviate patients’ pain are opioid-based. The increase in deaths related to overuse of opioids has led doctors to prescribe them less frequently, leaving sickle cell patients with fewer options.

Cannabis could help society cope with the opioid-related public health crisis,” says Kalpna Gupta.

Results showed that the effectiveness of cannabis increases over time to reduce pain in volunteers with sickle cell disease. They described less pain while walking and better sleep. There was also a statistically significant decrease in the amount of pain affecting their mood. For this, the researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. It is the first trial to use this reference method to evaluate the pain relief potential of cannabis in people with sickle cell disease. The cannabis used in the experiment contained, in equal parts, THC, and CBD, two active ingredients of the plant. 23 patients suffering from sickle cell disease pain inhaled vaporized cannabis, or its placebo, during two five-day hospitalization sessions, separated by at least 30 days, during which the researchers assessed the participants’ pain levels.

An alternative to opioids 

This study provides an additional option for physicians to treat chronic pain. 

We still need larger studies with more participants to give us a better picture of how cannabis could benefit people with chronic pain,” the researcher said. 

The results showed the effects of cannabis taken in vaporized form without identifying other ways of consuming the plant as efficient. 

Pain drives many people to turn to cannabis and is the main reason given by people for looking for cannabis in clinics. We do not know whether all forms of cannabis products will have a similar effect on chronic pain. Vaporized cannabis may be safer than other forms because smaller amounts reach the body’s circulation. This trial opens the door to testing different forms of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain,” Kalpna Gupta concluded.

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