Medical Marijuana for Arthritis: Pros and Cons


Arthritis is one of the leading causes of pain, discomfort, and disability in the United States. The National Center for Health Statistics says 26% of all Americans or around 76 million people have some sort of chronic pain – and at least half of this number has arthritis or a similar condition.

In general, arthritis stems from joint inflammation, but the term is actually used to describe nearly 200 different conditions that can impact joints and the surrounding connective tissue.

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1. An Overview Of Arthritis

Arthritis often leads to pain, stiffness, swelling, while some forms or rheumatic conditions can also impact the immune system and other organs. It’s more common across adults over the age of 65, but arthritis can impact people of all ages.

There’s not a single cause of arthritis. Most types stem from a combination of factors, including injury, an abnormal metabolism, via inherited genetics, and immune system dysfunctions. Risk factors for arthritis can increase due to lifestyle choices like smoking or physically demanding jobs that place a lot of wear and tear on the bones and joints.

In general, treatment of arthritis focuses on controlling pain, minimizing damage to joints, and otherwise aiming to boost the quality of life and motor function. These goals can be achieved through a number of methods, including medication, physical therapy, joint assistive aids, weight loss, or surgery (joint replacement).


Medical Marijuana Arthritis

Causes for Arthritis


2. Medical Marijuana And ​Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a serious chronic inflammatory condition that can lead to debilitating pain and even disability. People experience psoriatic arthritis in different manners, and symptoms can include inflammation, joint pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion. Right now, there’s no absolute cure for psoriatic arthritis, which means medications are only able to treat symptoms.

Psoriatic arthritis stems in patients who have psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune disorder that leads to a rapid build-up of new skin cells. These cells quickly rise to the surface of the skin and result in itchy raised patches that look like silver scales.

Psoriasis can have a massive impact on mental health and can also lead to permanent joint damage if it progresses into psoriatic arthritis without any sort of treatment to mitigate inflammation.

Right now, psoriatic arthritis is really only able to be managed by anti-inflammatories or cortisol injections to help inflamed joints. Other medications, like antitumor necrosis factor agents, can cause a wide range of side effects and become toxic to bone marrow.

As a result, many are becoming interested in the use of medical marijuana for psoriatic arthritis treatment. Since cannabis contains CBD and THC, two compounds that help manage pain and inflammation, speculation is medical marijuana could play a big role in reducing the effects of psoriatic arthritis without any nasty side effects.

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Additionally, cannabis also helps reduce the release of cytokines in the body, which are the cells in the body that lead to inflammation. THC and CBD also help stop the functioning of STAT1, a big factor in how the body negatively responds to inflammation, and can also bind to cannabinoid receptors to regulate inflammation and pain.


3. Cannabis For ​Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disorder that can inflame the joints and damage the skin, eyes, lungs, and blood vessels. This type of arthritis occurs when the immune system decides to attack the body’s tissues by mistake.

Rheumatoid arthritis can impact joint linings to the point where bone erosion and deformity occur due to swelling. Additional complications associated with rheumatoid arthritis include osteoporosis, dry eye and mouth, carpal tunnel syndrome, and heart problems stemming from blocked arteries.

2019 research suggests that cannabinoids could be a “suitable treatment” for rheumatoid arthritis, according to a review. The founder of the CED Foundation and Clinic in Boston, Dr. Benjamin Caplan, says he’s been able to treat thousands of patients suffering from arthritis with different cannabinoid forms.

He says cannabis is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can also help empower patients to take charge of their own healing since medicinal cannabis treatments often don’t follow a “traditional model” of where a doctor makes choices.

According to him, patients are able to utilize and experiment with cannabis alongside the guidance of a doctor – incentivizing them to teach others how to benefit from cannabis.


Medical Cannabis Arthritis

Benefits of Medical Marijuana for Arthritis


4. Facts About Medical Marijuana And Arthritis Treatment

The national discussion about medical marijuana and arthritis only continues to heat up. In research presented at the 2019 Annual European Congress of Rheumatology meeting in Spain, scientists asked 1,059 patients questions about arthritis and marijuana use.

They found how about 57% of respondents tried marijuana or CBD for medical reasons, and that 97% of those surveyed agreed marijuana usage helped improve symptoms associated with arthritis, like pain, fatigue, and decreased physical function.

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However, the same research suggests conversations about medical marijuana and arthritis treatment might still be hard to come by. Just two-thirds of those in the survey said they told their healthcare provider about their marijuana or CBD usage, while about half wanted to get more information about both from their doctor.

Researchers believe medical marijuana could be effective for arthritis treatment because cannabinoids are able to bind to two different receptors (CB1 and CB2), alongside a third receptor knows as GPR55.


Medical Cannabis And Arthritis: A Promising Future Ahead

Researchers continue to study the impact marijuana can have on severe pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, especially since there’s no current cure for rheumatic diseases.

A wide number of anecdotal reports and a growing number of studies point towards marijuana’s effectiveness in mitigating pain and the other debilitative effects associated with arthritis.

Medical cannabis has become popular due to its nature as a natural medicinal cure without the large range of side effects and potential long-term effects associated with potent drugs.

Access to medical dispensaries gives people with a medical marijuana card the ability to purchase high-quality cannabis that’s accurately labeled and is free of heavy metals or toxins.

These regulatory standards, combined with many states allowing minors to access medical marijuana provided they are under the proper care of a legitimate caregiver, opens up medical cannabis as a potential strong treatment option for people of all ages who suffer from arthritis.


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