Combatting Lupus with Cannabis
August 02, 2016
The Lupus Foundation of America supports further research into medical marijuana use for Lupus symptoms. Lupus is caused by a hyperactive immune system that leads to chronic pain, swelling, and tissue damage. Lupus can also effect certain organs, such as kidneys. Some Lupus patients can even experience kidney failure due to abnormal deposits within the kidneys. Lupus often also effect the joints, skin and brain. There are multiple different versions of Lupus that each effect different parts of the body more severely.
It was discovered that Lupus symptoms can be caused by the use of over 400 prescription drugs. Many of these cases could be quelled by stopping the use of the culprit drug, but in other cases Lupus can continue to effect the patient. Often, even if the Lupus was not caused by the use of a prescription drug, many people effected with the disease can get caught in a cycle of prescription drug use due to their symptoms. Many of the prescriptions used to alleviate the symptoms of Lupus can have adverse effects, requiring the use of even more prescriptions.
Lupus, as with many autoimmune disorders, poses the issue of long term opioid use in order to treat chronic pain. Since Lupus cannot be cured, rather just treated into remission, it is possible for patients to need to use opioid prescriptions to quell their pain for much longer periods of time than they were designed to be used. After long term use of opioids, the effectiveness can decrease, causing the need for stronger analgesic medications down the line.
Cannabis has been found to be an effective pain reliever without the addictive qualities of opioids. Cannabis can also work with opioids in a synergistic way to reduce pain in patients. A study published in the journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that when twenty-one patients took twice daily opioids, in association with vaporizing cannabis at specific times throughout the days they were observed, that the patients’ chronic pain had greatly decreased. The patients found greater relief compared to when they were only using opioids and the addition of cannabis did not change the way the opioids interacted with the patients body, as measured by plasma opioid levels. This study suggests that opioids could be used in lower doses in association with cannabis for effective pain relief.
Cannabis also has anti-inflammatory properties that could greatly help reduce the swelling and tissue damage experience with Lupus. A 2010 study published in the Future of Medicinal Chemistry found that cannabis is crucial in immune function and could be extremely helpful in reducing inflammation. The study stated,“administration of endocannabinoids or use of inhibitors of enzymes that break down the endocannabinoids, led to immunosuppression and recovery from immune-mediated injury to organs such as the liver.” This study shows that cannabis could be effective in mitigating the harm that Lupus can cause to organs. Cannabis can also be helpful with skin conditions, and skin is often one of the most effected organs in patients with Lupus. Cannabis is able to help alleviate many of the symptoms associated with Lupus and may even provide a new potential pathway to treat Lupus sufferers.
Do you have questions about cannabis and Lupus? Ask a question in HelloMD's new Answers feature. Our doctors and community will answer.