May 132012
 May 13, 2012

arthritis cannabis marijuanaCannabis And Arthritis

More than 31 million Americans suffer from arthritis. There are two common types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, but both affect the joints, causing pain and swelling, and limiting movement.

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a malfunction of the immune system. Instead of fighting off intruders such as bacteria or viruses, the body attacks the synovial membranes, which facilitate the movement of joints, eventually destroying cartilage and eroding bones. Rheumatoid arthritis is most common among the aged, whose immune systems are no longer as robust or efficient. Osteoarthritis, or arthritis of the bones, is also found primarily among the elderly, where cartilage has been worn away through many years of use. Arthritis may also manifest as chronic inflammation of the joints as the result of injuries.

The use of cannabis as a treatment for musclo-skeletal pain in western medicine dates to the 1700s. Evidence from recent research suggests that cannabis-based therapies are effective in the treatment of arthritis and the other rheumatic and degenerative hip, joint and connective tissue disorders. Since these are frequently extremely painful conditions, the well-documented analgesic properties of cannabis make it useful in treating the pain associated with arthritis, both on its own and as an adjunct therapy that enhances the efficacy of opioid painkillers.

But cannabis has also been shown to have powerful immune-modulation and anti-inflammatory properties,suggesting that it could play a role in treating arthritis, and not just in symptom management. In fact, one of the earliest records of medical use of cannabis, a Chinese text dating from ca. 2000 BC, notes that cannabis “undoes rheumatism,” suggesting its anti-inflammatory effects were known even then.

Modern research on cannabidiol (CBD), one of the non-psychoactive components of cannabis, has found that it suppresses the immune response in mice and rats that is responsible for a disease resembling arthritis, protecting them from severe damage to their joints and markedly improving their condition.

Human studies have shown cannabis to be an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, one of the many recognized conditions for which many states allow legal medical use. Cannabis has a demonstrated ability to improve mobility and reduce morning stiffness and inflammation. Research has also shown that patients are able to reduce their usage of potentially harmful Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) when using cannabis as an adjunct therapy.

Medical researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem found that when Cannabidiol is metabolized, one result is the creation of an acid with potent anti-inflammatory action comparable to the drug indomethacin, but without the considerable gastrointestinal side effects associated with that drug.

In addition, when the body metabolizes tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of cannabis’ primary components, it produces a number of related chemicals. At least one of these metabolites has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. By modifying this metabolite, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center have produced a synthetic carboxylic acid known as CT-3 (also called DMH-11C, chemical name dimethylheptyl-THC-11 oic acid), which is more powerful than the natural metabolite itself, and thus can be given in smaller doses. Animal tests found CT-3 effective against both chronic and acute inflammation, and it also prevented destruction of joint tissue from chronic inflammation. The long safety record of marijuana – no one has ever died of an overdose – and the fact that a metabolite with the desired anti-inflammatory effect is produced in the body when marijuana is used, strongly suggest that safe and effective anti-inflammatory drugs may be developed from cannabinoids.

In addition, CT3 has demonstrated analgesic effects in animals. In some cases the dose-dependent effect of THC was equivalent to morphine, but with a much greater duration of action.

In contrast to the NSAIDs commonly prescribed arthritis sufferers, CT3 did not cause ulcers at therapeutically relevant doses. Moreover, it does not depress respiration, exhibit dependence, induce body weight loss or cause mutations. Studies on its mechanism of action are currently underway, with cytokine synthesis one of the pathways being studied.

Cannabis may also help combat rheumatoid arthritis through its well-recognized immune-modulation properties. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by dysregulation of the immune system in response to an initial infection or trauma. Over-activity of the immune system’s B-cells causes antibodies to attack and destroy the synovial tissues located in the joint.

The immuno-modulatory properties of a group of fats found in cannabis known as sterols and sterolins have been used as natural alternatives to conventional rheumatoid arthritis treatments, which employ highly toxic drugs to either suppress the entire immune response of the body or to palliate pain and the inflammatory process without correcting the underlying immune dysfunction.

Cytokines play a role in either fueling or suppressing the inflammation that causes damage in rheumatoid arthritis and some other diseases. The release of selected cytokines is impaired by cannabis, but the findings differ by cell type, experimental conditions, and especially the concentration of the cannabinoids examined. A sterol/sterolin combination has been experimentally demonstrated to reduce the secretion of the pro-inflammatory cytokines controlled by the TH2 helper cells and to increase the number of TH helper cells that regulate the secretion of antibodies from the B cells. This selective activation and inhibition of the immune system results is an effective control of the dysfunctional auto-immune response.

Similarly, ajulemic acid (another non-psychoactive cannabinoid) has been found by UMass Medical Center researchers to reduce joint tissue damage in rats with adjuvant arthritis. Tests on human tissue done in vitro showed a 50% suppression of one of the body’s chemicals (interleukin-1beta) central to the progression of inflammation and joint tissue injury in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Conventional Arthritis Medications

Nearly 100 medications are listed by the Arthritis Foundation website for use with arthritis or other related conditions, such as fibromyalgia, psoriasis, osteoporosis and gout. These medicines include aspirin, ibuprofen and other oral and topical analgesics that dull pain. The most commonly used analgesic, acetaminophen (aspirin-free Anacin, Excedrin, Panadol, Tylenol) is usually not associated with side effects, though long-term use of acetaminophen is thought to be one of the common causes of end-stage renal disease.. To effectively control arthritis, aspirin must be taken in large, continuous doses (1000-5400 mg daily), which can cause stomach pain or damage; it is believed to cause more than 1,000 deaths annually in the United States. For that reason, some doctors prescribe one of several chemical variations referred to as nonacetylated salicylates, such as CMT, Tricosal, and Trilisate, which can cause deafness or ringing in the ears in large doses.

Much stronger analgesics are also prescribed for arthritis, sometimes along with acetaminophen. These are: codeine (Dolacet, Hydrocet, Lorcet, Lortab); morphine (Avinza, Oramorph); oxycodone (Vicodin, Oxycontin, Roxicodone); propoxyphene (Percocet, Darvon, Darvocet) and tramadol (Ultram, Ultracet). These medicines can cause psychological and physical dependence, as well as constipation, dizziness, lightheadedness, mood changes, nausea, sedation, shortness of breath and vomiting. Taking high doses or mixing with alcohol can slow down breathing, a potentially fatal condition.

Analgesics don’t treat the inflammation that can cause severe arthritis pain. For inflammation, steroids, NSAIDs and newer COX-2 inhibitors are prescribed. Corticosteroids (Cortisone), prednisone and related medications can cause bruising, cataracts, elevated blood sugar, hypertension, increased appetite, disease.. To effectively control arthritis, aspirin restlessness, osteoporosis, susceptibility to infection and thin skin.

Twenty NSAIDs are available with a doctor’s prescription, with three of those also available over the counter. They are diclofenac (Arthrotec, Cataflam, Voltaren); diflunisal (Dolobid);etodolac (Lodine); fenoprofen calcium (Nalfon); flurbiprofen (Ansaid); ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, Nuprin); indomethacin (Indocin); ketoprofen (Orudis); meclofenamatesodium (Meclomen); mefenamic acid (Ponstel); meloxicam (Mobic); nabumetone(Relafen); naproxen (Naprosyn, Naprelan); naproxen sodium (Anaprox, Aleve);oxaprozin (Daypro); piroxicam (Feldene); sulindac (Clinoril); and olmetin sodium (Tolectin).

Side effects of NSAIDs include abdominal or stomach cramps, edema (swelling of the feet), pain or discomfort, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness or lightheadedness, headache, heartburn or indigestion, nausea or vomiting, gastric ulcers, stomach irritation, bleeding, fluid retention, and decreased kidney function. This is because NSAIDs act on arthritis by inhibiting prostaglandins, which protect the stomach lining, promote clotting of the blood, regulate salt and fluid balance, and maintain blood flow to the kidneys. The gastrointestinal complications of NSAIDS are the most commonly reported serious adverse drug reaction, though NSAIDs are reported to cause more than 10,000 deaths and 100,000 hospitalizations annually.

The newer group of arthritis drugs is known as cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors (COX-2), which include Celebrex, Bextra and Vioxx. These medications have the same side effects as NSAIDS, except they are less likely to cause bleeding stomach ulcers and increase susceptibility to bruising or bleeding.

Non-selective NSAIDS have been associated with an increased risk of congestive heart failure. Less is known or has been concluded about the cardiovascular effects of COX-2 inhibitors, though a retrospective analysis of the risk of hospital admission for heart failure done by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, Canada suggests some may have serious side effects. The study of 130,000 older patients found that those using Vioxx had an 80% increased risk of hospital admission for congestive heart failure. Those using non-selective NSAIDS had a 40% increased risk, and those using Celebrex had the same rate of heart failure as people who had never used NSAIDS.

Antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effects of NSAIDs can mask the signs and symptoms of infection. Their use can interfere with the pharmacologic control of hypertension and cardiac failure in patients who take beta-adrenergic antagonists, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, or diuretics. Long-term use may damage chondrocyte (cartilage) function.

About 60% of patients will respond to any single NSAID. Approximately 10% of rheumatoid arthritis patients will not respond to any NSAID. Biologic response modifiers such as adalimumab (Humira); etanercept (Enbrel); infliximab (Remicade), and anakinra (Kineret)) are prescribed to either inhibit or the supplement the immune system components called cytokines.

Rare reports of lupus (with such symptoms as rash, fever and pleurisy) have been linked to treatment with adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab. Lupus symptoms resolve when the medication is stopped.

Multiple sclerosis has rarely developed in patients receiving biologic response modifiers. Seizures have been reported with etanercept.

Cannabis: By comparison, the side effects associated with cannabis are typically mild and are classified as “low risk.” Euphoric mood changes are among the most frequent side effects. Cannabinoids can exacerbate schizophrenic psychosis in predisposed persons. Cannabinoids impede cognitive and psychomotor performance, resulting in temporary impairment. Chronic use can lead to the development of tolerance. Tachycardia and hypotension are frequently documented as adverse events in the cardiovascular system. A few cases of myocardial ischemia have been reported in young and previously healthy patients. Inhaling the smoke of cannabis cigarettes induces side effects on the respiratory system. Cannabinoids are contraindicated for patients with a history of cardiac ischemia. In summary, a low risk profile is evident from the literature available. Serious complications are very rare and are not usually reported during the use of cannabinoids for medical indications.

Source: Americans for Safe Access

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About Johnny Green

Johnny Green is a marijuana activist from Oregon. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy. Follow Johnny Green on Facebook and Twitter. Also, feel free to email any concerns.
  • Guest

    “Rheumatoid arthritis is most common among the aged, whose immune systems are no longer as robust or efficient.” – This is 200% wrong. Try researching a disease you plan to write about first.Â

    • Deephousedave

      I think it’s the medical marijuana is the main discussion and if it works or not. I suffer from arthritis in my left ankle from an injury I had six months previous. I’m only 32 and trust me after nearly killing my liver from pain pills I tried some good weed, and yes it works, the pain and stiffness in the morning are the worst but after a small hit I get to stretch it out and strengthen it. So try not pick up on little mistakes when the goal is the same. The Weed Blob does a great job, and not just in the states. I’m from Ireland where I have to buy my medicine off a dealer and don’t even know its the right type for my pain. Give the plant the same rights as any herbs like sage or thyme or whatever.

      • Mrhobbieineaglerock

        If everyone smoked weed the world would be a happy place. Everyone would be smiling and the world would be full of peace and love.

        Seriously though, weed is a medicine that can really help some people. Yes it is a drug but so is alcohol. Every drug has its medical benefits but just like everything else in life can be a bad thing if it is abused.

    • Mom Got One

      I agree with that. I’m only 41 years old and had Rheumatoid Arthritis for years before I was diagnosed. More and more young people are getting some form of arthritis, my grand daughter is 2 now and was diagnosed about 6months ago with Juvenile Arthritis. Need to stop helping rx companies make money off their drugs and help find some answers for all of us suffering YOUNG and old.

      • Mom Got One

        I’ve considered marijuana these past couple years but didn’t cause I would feel horrible, like I was a bad person for having to try to buy it off the streets. RX drugs that drs are giving.g out is what’s causing over doses etc. I say make marijuana legal and given according to an individuals medical need, and take meds like Lortab and Oxycontin off the market!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.freemanfilmmaker Mike Freeman

    The big pharmaceutical drug companies are the main enemies of the decriminalisation of cannabis and many in positions of power corrupt decision takers with their filty lucre.  Â

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jose-Gonzales/100003694111815 Jose Gonzales

    Not only does it help the pain, but it also increases blood flow to the joints and promotes healing.

    The Obama care death panels want opiates prescribed for severe pain to hasten the end of life and end the burden to tax payers.

  • FungoRungo

    Make no doubt about it man, pot really is jsut cool like that.
    Privacy-Buddy.tk

  • http://www.facebook.com/OklahomaWeed Oklahoma Weed

    Follow us on face book and see our brand new page at OKLAHOMA MARIJUANA to read the petition to be filed with the attorney general and secretary of state.

  • JP

    Jesuspipes.com

  • Focusonpeace

    Obviously cannabis has medicinal value, scientists keep proving it. But why do the government in the US and the UK keep denying cannabis has any medicinal value? In England the government allow GW pharma to grow tons and tons of high grade Skunk every year as medicine for people who suffer from MS. Its called Sativex and is basically cannabis in a bottle, Its even 27% THC, so its a strong hybrid like high apparently, it even states on the side of the tincture ‘ Euphoric mood’. So it gets you high and gives you health, its cannabis, yet our governments deny cannabis has any medicinal value.
    interesting… Â

    • Patshaughnessy

      It is the oil,phama,paper and tabbaco companies that made it illigal they all lobbied against it because they knew all of the thing that can be made out of it. you can make paper,clothing,gas and a number  medicinesÂ

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Greig/679633622 Jim Greig

    My type of rheumatoid arthritis, Ankylosing
    Spondylitis has confined me to a wheelchair since I was 38.  My doctors
    first prescribed sulphasolozine and NSAIDs.Â
    They quickly depressed my respiration and induced my body weight loss.  I started with vicoden for pain. Within a few
    years it was oxycodone.  I started using Enbrel
    when it came out since slowed down my inflammation rate.

    Â

    Now I use as much cannabis as I can while still being able
    to function.  Two small doses, each the
    size of a grain of rice of Simson hemp oil works the best.  I also smoke in the afternoon and
    evening.  I’ve cut my opiates in half and
    my stomach is getting better.

    Â

    Weedblog guys, I hope Larry in LA reads your article.  He posted an ignorant comment on the US News
    story.  Â

  • PabloMeehan

    Xternal Topical Analgesic made from cannabis seems to alleviate the symptoms quite well. http://www.xternalrub.com/

  • http://relentlesstraffic.com/ David C. Weber

    Marijuana, real Marijuana, not that chemical junk out there floating around? Some works better then others, but I have noticed relief when I used to use it. Unfortunately the herb wasn’t all I liked and I just had to give it all up!

    I used to use it for my neuropathy which now has me numb from the knees down  However, strange as it sounds, even though I am numb pressure of any kind causes me terrible pain. Standing, squeezing or any kind of touching period causes pain.

    I have no problem with anyone doing there thing, whatever that may be? But! I have seen abuse up close and personal, I didn’t read the book, I wrote it!

    You guys all be safe, take care ! I really hope the Marijuana helps your ailments whatever they are?
    Use it in a controlled manner and you will notice much better relief, as well as the ability to control what your using!

    In other words, if you smoke 3 blunts everytime you have a smoke, then when you don’t have 3 blunts to smoke, scraping that old bowl ain’t going to cut it!

    Have a Blessed Day!
    David

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marilyn-Morrison-Seenes/1338189667 Marilyn Morrison Seenes

      Hard to get the real quality stuff esp on limited income and yep the junk is not cutting it ,but boy the real stuff certain strains are just better than morphine and a xanax !

  • http://relentlesstraffic.com/ David C. Weber

     I hope my comment went through? I hit edit and it disappeared on me?
    I just wanted to add that I think your site is great! Nice job, it looks great and it would appear that you have an awesome community as well.

    Thanks again for allowing me to share!
    David

  • anthony

    i’m 28 with Reactive Arthritis ( a reaction to salmonella poisoning) in my neck, back, hips, knees and other minor joints. i was a smoker before getting arthritis and have continued smoking. there is no doubt in my mind that it helps alleviate pain and “loosen” my joints.
    i read this article with much interest, as i’m on Ketoprofen (200mg everyday) and am certainly suffering the side effects of and would like to come of it at some stage in the near future.

    keep me updated on any more news!!

    anthony

  • http://arthriticpainrelief.net/ Susana

    I suffer from an illness that causes a lot of pain as well. I find the information educative but I do not know whether I would have the courage to take marijuana. But this article has made think about it as a possible option

    • Name

      I think it’s definitely worth a shot. If you’re not ready don’t do it. You have to feel relaxed and comfortable :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Maya-Smith/100003248571063 Maya Smith

    I think people should be more focused in using natural products to treat their diseases. Natural remedies really work. My mother had serious problems with pain caused by arthritis. She used pain medications for years without too great results and also she haz experienced many side effects. Last year her best friend recommended her some natural products from STOPANYPAIN.COM. She started using a product from there, and I can say that she feels much, much better. I strongly believe that pharmaceutical companies hide the benefits of natural remedies,for their financial interests.
    So, good luck to you all and do not forget that natural remedies really work!

  • Karin

    For the the love of God people wake up and help us!!!!

  • Tom

    RIGHT…ok… I’ve smoked weed for years on and off and I know that in moderation it’s completely fine – however my 73 year old, straight-laced irish catholic mum is in no way cool with drug taking, BUT i’ve suspected for years that the arthritis that she’s increasingly suffering from would be in some way alliviated by ingesting (somehow) a bit of it. What tips does anyone have in persuading/moderating/convincing someone in a similar situation to try ‘herbal tea’, etc in order to at least attempt to try to combat their pain? What did you say? How did you approach the subject?
    Thanks in advance,
    Tom

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/G4EGFWW7JBMZEYAJDZHDCBF65E Bob

    Which cannabis is best for my osteoarthritis? I would also like to obtain a dozen of those seeds.

  • GravityJones

    If anybody has any advice for me in regards to my Reactive Arthritis. I would appreciate it. This came about about a month ago. Long story short, I’ve tried to do my part and start by changing some things. I’ve stopped drinking, quit smoking cigeretts,and adjusted my diet. I’am 35 and have smoked since I was 17. In the last month I’ve also cut down on my weed. It’s really nice to not consume myself with it like a before. My point is, weed helps with my pain, and more importantly it keeps my mind at ease. Hope to hear feedback

  • ruzzel01

    It has different effect on me. I feel better when having it. http://logogloves.org/

  • seb

    In France, we work for legalize it, but it’s very HARD

    http://cannabis-medical.blogspot.fr/

  • seb

    In France, we work for legalize it, but it’s very HARD

    http://cannabis-medical.blogspot.fr/

  • mr victor

    minor correction to article: vicodin does not contain oxycodone – it contains hydrocodone.

    • mr victor

      and percocet does not contain propoxyphene, it contains oxycodone.

  • mikki

    it also helps alcholics,if I must say.

  • GodsGirlSmiles

    What type of cannabis do I use for treating RA and Lupus? Thank you. O:)

  • Nannyto1

    I suffer from osteoarthritis and smoked cannabis for years on a regular basis. Due to sinus problems, I gave up smoking several months and I can’t believe the difference in how I feel. My aches and pains are so much worse than they used to be. I started searching the internet to see if it could be because I no longer smoke and I really believe that it is. I’m wondering about doing a cannabis pill??? Anyone??

    • baron

      Have you tried any other method of using cannabis besides smoking? Topical, ingesting, tinctures, vaporizing? All of these are immensely less harmful to your body than smoking.