Cannabis Shows Promise in Treating Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among those from or with ancestors from sub-Saharan Africa. The disease causes a deficit in red blood cells and blocks blood flow throughout the body.

sickle cell disease

The results of sickle cell disease can be devastating chronic pain, where patients are often prescribed opioids despite their potential side effects and risk for addiction, constipation and respiratory depression.

However, a new study published in JAMA Network Open has found that cannabis may provide an alternative or at the very least adjunct treatment to sickle cell patients.

The research represents the first double-blind placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial to explore the use of cannabis and its potential pain relief benefits for sickle cell sufferers.

These trials show that vaporized cannabis appears to be generally safe, and they suggest that sickle cell patients may be able to mitigate their pain with cannabis – and also that cannabis may help society address the public health crisis that has arisen as a result of opioid addiction.

About the Study

The trial recruited 23 patients with sickle cell disease-related pain. They either inhaled a cannabis vaporizer with equal parts of THC and CBD, or a placebo vaporizer over two, 5-day inpatient sessions. Researchers then recorded how pain still affected their general activities, sleep patterns, walking and general mood.

Those who inhaled cannabis reported general improvements in pain with the effectiveness of the THC and CBD improving over time. Subjects reported less and less pain interference in walking and sleeping, and their moods also improved.

Dr Gupta, one of the lead researchers in the study said that pain often causes people to turn to cannabis for relief. “We don’t know if all forms of cannabis products will have a similar effect on chronic pain. Vaporized cannabis, which we employed, may be safer than other forms because lower amounts reach the body’s circulation.”

Cannabis and its effects on the pain associated with many chronic diseases continue to be studied, and the results appear to be more and more promising.

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