Can marijuana and cannabis be used to successfully treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The answer is yes... cannabis has reduced symptoms
Cannabis has been proven to improve the condition of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
The ingredients in cannabis - also known as marijuana - have been used to successfully treat Multiple Sclerosis and manage pain in cancer sufferers.
But there is also significant hope that cannabis medications can not only suppress the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis but actually control the progression of the disease.
Anecdotal evidence has existed for many years that cannabis is used effectively to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis. And a in survey from 2005 of people who bought cannabis on the black market, 16 per cent said they did so to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms.
One of the first times that scientists raised this was in 2000 when they said publicly that an ingredient in cannabis reduces the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. They also said that cannabis could become a much cheaper alternative to the current range of rheumatoid arthritis medications.
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Should marijuana be given to rheumatoid arthritis patients?
This provided hope to the thousands of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers in the UK who struggle with pain and are often looking for treatments. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the joints as the immune system turns on itself. Instead of fighting infections, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints which causes swelling and pain.
The doctors said that although cannabis had for many years been known to affect the immune system, they had now succesfully isolated the cannabidiol component. This is the ingredient in marijuana that can block the progression of arthritis. When adminitered to patients, it could be done safley without any of the intoxicating and psychological side-effects.
One of the lead dectors from the study, professor Marc Feldmann of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, said that the cannabidiol could be extracted and used in a pill form as it does not affect the brain. The effects of the brain, and the links to psychosis, is largely the reasn why marijuana and cannabis are illegal in most countries.
At the time, cannabis has only been tested on mice. However, five years later in 2005, the first study of cannabis medication on humans was carried out. Details were published in the Rheumatology journal.
Thirty-one Rheumatoid Arthritis patients were given the cannabis spray Sativex while 27 received a placebo. Sativex contains the two key ingrediants from the marijuana plant. They are delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
The study showed that patients who had used the Sativex spray had significant improvements in pain on movement, pain at rest, quality of sleep, inflammation. This provides hope for many rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.
The Sativex spray is also used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and it can be bought from a number of online pharmacies. Some rheumatoid arthritis consultants may prescribe the spray but at the minute it is unlikely to be offered by GPs.
Many rheumtoid arthritis patients resort to buying the Sativex spray privately. Some are also known to buy cannabis on the black market and use it in the form of tea or through a vaporizer.
Campaigners continue to lobby the UK government to legalise cannabis. Health groups are also keen to pressure doctors and health organisations around the world to make marijuana medications more widely available.