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Medical Cannabis for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): the little-known facts
According to a Newsmax report, even doctors are in the dark about the possible benefits of medical cannabis as a treatment for the painful inflammatory effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Apparently 3 out of 4 doctors specializing in rheumatology believe that cannabis has no real value in treatment. However, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, patients have been quicker to try cannabis as a potential remedy, both for RA and for osteoarthritis.
Why do people believe that cannabis could help?
The idea that cannabis could have a role to play in the treatment of arthritis is supported by a 2005 study of Sativex, a drug containing the cannabis compound THC, as a possible medication for arthritis inflammation. Although THC’s non-psychoactive cousin, CBD is also reputed to have anti-inflammatory properties, MedPage Today says that doctors and their patients should be cautious, since the evidence in favour of Cannabis as a treatment for RA is still sketchy.
No ‘directions for use’
The lack of a specific treatment protocol is enough to make any scientifically-minded person pause for thought. If there is no proven method and no indication of which cannabis compounds may be effective and what dosage can be used, it becomes impossible to make any guarantees regarding efficacy.
Side-effects and alternatives
There are also concerns regarding the side-effects of high-THC marijuana. Short-term memory loss, palpitations and paranoia have been reported. However, these side effects may be eliminated if the THC cannabinoid is avoided.
Another Cannabis-based compound with no psychoactive effect, cannabidiol (CBD) has shown equal promise as an anti-inflammatory that lacks the THC side-effects. A study published in 2000 concludes that CBD has a “potent anti-arthritic effect”. However, it should be noted that this study was conducted on mice rather than human beings. Animal trial results do not necessarily translate into successful human trials, and just because mice can be treated with CBD, humans may not be as lucky.
MedPage Today reports that two thirds of Canadian medical marijuana users are arthritis sufferers and notes that the use of cannabis as a pain killer has long been known. However, the article concludes that doctors should not be prescribing medical cannabis to arthritis sufferers in any form until more conclusive evidence and an accepted treatment protocol are forthcoming.
Doctors should not prescribe cannabis for arthritis – yet
The author of the MedPage report observes that the variability in cannabinoid concentration found in herbal cannabis would make it difficult to prescribe accurately. Risks cited embrace the side effects of THC including reduced motor co-ordination – a problem that could make driving dangerous for both patients and innocent road users. However, the article fails to address non-psychoactive CBD as a potential treatment.
Anecdotal CBD evidence abounds
The San Francisco Chronicle report includes several cases in which patients have self-reported improvement when using CBD and THC in a 4:1 ratio. The article states that “modern science is catching up” on what has been known for 5,000 years, but once again the scientific evidence simply isn’t there. Do you think that medical marijuana is the real cure for rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?