Medical Marijuana for Arthritis: Everything You Need to Know

You want relief from your arthritis pain, but your current medication doesn’t control your symptoms. Have you considered using medical marijuana for arthritis? But you probably know about the controversy that surrounds marijuana use.

It’s true. Researchers still don’t know everything about how marijuana affects the body. But there’s substantial evidence that it relieves long-term pain.

A growing number of doctors and patients believe that cannabis relieves chronic pain. And such pain is a major symptom of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). But should you consider medical marijuana as an option?

Is Marijuana Good Medicine?

Marijuana’s effectiveness and safety for rheumatoid arthritis aren’t certain. But there is evidence to show that it can treat pain. Recently, a U.S pain clinic study revealed that 80% of marijuana users use it to control myofascial pain.

Before 1943, pharmacology in the United States included marijuana. Doctors prescribed it for various conditions, including neuropathic pain. And many doctors believe they can treat patients with it now.

“I understand there is a concern that if you legalize it, kids will use it recreationally,” says CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “but our concern for their safety shouldn’t keep patients who need this from getting access.”

How Cannabis Affects the Body and Mind

Cannabis contains over 100 chemicals that affect the body and mind. THC and CBD are the most studied. They likely have the most effect on the human body.

THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid that gets users high when smoked, vaped, or eaten. CBD is non-psychoactive and doesn’t have the mind-altering effects of THC. Many users choose CBD oil and other CBD products for that reason.

THC-A, which is different from THC, is better for inflammation than THC and CBD. Adding THC-A can help treat the underlying inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis. That way the pain relief is not only masking the symptoms of the condition.

Medical Marijuana and Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It often makes joints stiff, tender, and painful. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the lungs, eyes, and skin.

Because of the ban on marijuana, human studies have been few. Researchers cannot say for sure that cannabis eases RA symptoms. But some studies suggest that it may help with the following:

  • Reduce morning pain
  • Improve sleep
  • Lower inflammation in joints

Lab tests on animals suggest that cannabinoids help to lessen the body’s immune response. But doctors need more proof before they can recommend medical marijuana for arthritis.

Many users have claimed the benefits of medical marijuana. Anecdotal evidence suggests that medical marijuana is effective.

“I actually don’t remember what it was like not to be in pain,” says Bridget Seritt, who has dealt with chronic illness since she was a small girl, “I have both types of arthritis—rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.”

Find Out If Medical Marijuana Will Work for You

Ask your doctor if medical marijuana will work for you. Your doctor will tell you the possible side effects, drug interactions, and legal considerations.

Your doctor can consult you on the dose that may help you most. Different timing and route of delivery may help. An edible twice a day may relieve long-lasting pain. And vaping may offer acute pain relief.

The FDA doesn’t regulate marijuana or other cannabis-derived products. Because of this, it can be hard to know what’s in the products you buy. One batch of marijuana may have a higher or lower amount of THC and CBD than another. Other factors may affect you differently.

Know the Possible Side Effects

Marijuana has mental and physical effects. Because THC is psychoactive, it can impair driving ability. The effects of smoking, vaping and eating marijuana vary from person to person. The high comes and goes differently as well.

Regular use of marijuana may bring on anxiety or depression for some users. Marijuana can cause the following:

  • Headache
  • Coughing
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Increased appetite
  • Dry eyes
  • Paranoia

CBD has milder side effects that include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Less appetite
  • Interaction with blood thinners

Of course, some patients experience different symptoms and in different degrees of severity. That’s why it’s important to talk to a medical professional about other medications you might be on. 

How to Get Medical Marijuana for Arthritis

Some states have legalized marijuana for recreational use and it can be easy to buy. But others require you to buy medical marijuana at a dispensary or pharmacy. Your doctor may have to provide a medical card.

Many forms are available besides marijuana’s natural form. Oils, pills, and edibles are available. CBD products are legal in many states and are available at many health food stores and online.

Although medical marijuana programs exist, cannabis is still illegal to the federal government. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug. The feds consider these drugs dangerous substances with “no currently accepted medical use.”

Doctors and patients who follow state laws still risk a fine, arrest, or prison. But many states have proposed bills in Congress to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. So that status could change soon.

Medical Marijuana vs. Current Treatments

Traditional arthritis treatments are full of potentially dangerous side effects. Tylenol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can worsen liver and bleeding issues. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) dampen the immune system’s ability to fight infections. And opioids are highly addictive.

“If you put the opioids head-to-head with cannabis for mild to moderate pain, what we find is that they’re about equal,” says Jordan Tishler, M.D. and Harvard instructor of medicine, “In that situation, cannabis may be equally effective, but it’s a lot safer.”

The Future of Medical Marijuana

The cannabinoid dosages available may limit the use of medical marijuana for arthritis. Contaminants found in cannabis products (not regulated by the FDA) may affect conditions. Pesticides, heavy metals, and fentanyl may worsen arthritis more than the THC, THC-A, or CBD can help.

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp products from the list of Schedule I drugs. As a result, hemp-derived CBD products have flooded the market. A Penn Medicine study found that 70% of CBD products bought online mislabeled their content.

Medical patients, unlike recreational users, have a lot to think about when taking CBD. They want medicine that is easy to take. They need medicine that is properly dosed. They require reliable results with little or no intoxication.

Treat Your Arthritis with Medical Marijuana

Even though researchers must study medical marijuana further, anecdotal evidence shows its potential. It’s worth your consideration as a treatment option for arthritis pain. But it’s wise to seek advice from the experts.

Find out how you can use medical marijuana for arthritis by visiting The Herbal Clinic, MD. Changes to Florida’s cannabis legislation offer permanent, patient-friendly solutions for your condition. Request your new patient appointment.