Cannabis and its Effects on Arthritis
It’s not secret anymore: America’s baby boomers are getting old, and one of the most common complaints in older populations is arthritis. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 54 million Americans have arthritis, with vast majority of women making up 60 percent of the arthritis diagnoses. But what exactly is arthritis, and how can cannabis help it?
What is Arthritis?
“Arthritis” is an umbrella term used to describe 200 rheumatic diseases affecting the joints and their surrounding tissues. It sources the inflammation and stiffness that develops abruptly or steadily around one or more joints.
What are the Causes & Forms of Arthritis
Although it is more shared in seniors, arthritis can harshly impair a person of any age, leaving him or her unable to work or execute daily routine duties. In the United States, arthritis is the most common cause of infirmity, and high levels of stress and depression are often associated.
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Genetics may reason arthritis, along with obesity, joint damage, infections, and occupations requiring repetitive bending or squatting. Dysfunction of the immune system and an abnormal metabolism can also lead to various forms of arthritis, though many rheumatoid diseases are caused by a combination of factors.
Forms of arthritis are broken into seven main sections:
- Inflammatory arthritis — joints become inflamed for no seeming reason.
- Worsening or mechanical arthritis — the body tries alteration of the bone to restore stability. Osteoarthritis is an example.
- Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain — pain felt in tissues rather than joints or bones, affecting overused body parts. For example, “tennis elbow.”
- Back pain — unspecified pain associated with muscles, discs, nerves, ligaments, bones, or joints in the back such as osteoporosis.
- Connective tissue disease — pain in tendons, ligaments, and cartilage characterized by tenderness of the skin, muscles, lungs, and kidneys.
- Infectious arthritis — inflammation in a joint caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi (examples of causes include food poisoning, STDs, and Hepatitis C). Antibiotics can usually treat it.
- Metabolic arthritis — too much uric acid may form sharp crystals in a joint that cause sudden, excruciating pain. Gout is an example.
Arthritis Treatment Methods;
Although they don’t heal joint tenderness, analgesics like Tylenol, Percocet, and Vicodin may be prescribed to reduce pain along with creams containing menthol or capsaicin. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil, Motrin, or Aleve may be taken to reduce pain and tenderness.
Rheumatoid arthritis is cured with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to prevent the immune system from offensive inflamed joints. Corticosteroids like prednisone and cortisone may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation and overwhelm the immune system.
Exercise can ease the pain and stress levels for people with arthritis, but more than a quarter of adults diagnosed with arthritis report being physically inactive. Dietary changes and food intakes may manage arthritis, as meats and foods high in sugar can exacerbate inflammation.
How Cannabis helps as Remedial Medicine for Arthritis
While cannabis is categorized as a Schedule I drug by the federal government, meaning it’s measured as highly addictive with no medical value and research on it is severely controlled — a scientific consensus has nonetheless emerged on its therapeutic value based on a growing body of effective preclinical and clinical trials. To the delight of many, those studies show that cannabis has anti-inflammatory effects that can help arthritis patients live happier, healthier lives.
Consequently, cannabis is gaining popularity as a treatment for arthritis. Cannabis can ease the pain and decrease inflammation without the potentially life-threatening side effects caused by frequent NSAID or opiate use.
In the summer of 2015, the Canadian Arthritis Society funded a 3 year research grant to a Dalhousie University researcher to identify if marijuana can relieve pain or repair arthritic joints. Pain-detecting nerves are filled with cannabinoid receptors, and according to researcher Jason McDougall, cannabinoids control the firing of pain signals from the joint to the brain by sticking themselves to nerve receptors. Another controlled study, conducted by the Royal National Hospital (RNH) for Rheumatic Disease in the United Kingdom, displayed that cannabinoids provided statistically substantial improvements in pain on movement, pain at rest, and quality of sleep.
At a time when opiate abuse has reached chaotic magnitudes, cannabis treatment can be a far less harmful and less addictive way to treat those suffering from chronic pain associated with arthritis. According to Mike Hart, MD, head physician of the Ontario Chapter at Marijuana for Trauma (MFT):
“Cannabis is much more effective and safer long term solution than opioids. The science is clear and demonstrates that cannabis is far safer than opioids. In fact, it’s not even close. Opioids have killed more people than all illegal drugs combined, while cannabis has never killed a single person.”
Not only is cannabis an effective alternative treatment to NSAIDs or opiates, it can help people get off precarious drugs such as opioids. According to Dr. Hart, “I have literally helped hundreds of patients reduce or eliminate their dependence on opioids.”
In accumulation to growing numbers of professionals within the medical industry recognizing the therapeutic value of cannabis, the public has also become more receptive to medical marijuana treatment. In January 2014, CBS News conducted a national poll finding that 86 percent of Americans believe doctors should be permitted to prescribe cannabis to patients who suffer from serious illnesses such as arthritis. As far back as 2004, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which boasts 35 million members, published a national poll revealing that 72 percent of seniors support allowing the use of doctor-recommended cannabis to treat patients.