Marijuana Shows Promise In Sickle Cell Disease Treatment

The Fresh Toast
July 23, 2020

This article was originally published on The Fresh Toast, and appears here with permission.

Clinical trial results indicate cannabis could provide an alternative or adjunctive treatment to sickle cell patients.

Exact projections remain unknown, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that between 70,000 to 100,000 Americans have sickle cell disease. The disease causes a deficit in red blood cells and blocks blood flow throughout the body. This can result in chronic pain with patients typically prescribed opioids, despite potential side effect like addiction, constipation, and respiratory depression.

But a new study published in JAMA Network Open finds that cannabis could provide an alternative or adjunctive treatment to sickle cell patients. The research, co-led by UC Irvine researcher Kalpna Gupta and UC San Francisco’s Dr. Donald Abrams, represents the first double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial to explore marijuana as a potential pain relief for sickle cell.

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“These trial results show that vaporized cannabis appears to be generally safe,” Gupta said. “They also suggest that sickle cell patients may be able to mitigate their pain with cannabis—and that cannabis might help society address the public health crisis related to opioids.”

Photo by Iryna Veklich/Getty Images

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