Marijuana for Arthritis Pain: New Study Explains Why

Health
Marijuana for Arthritis Pain: New Study Explains Why

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About a third of Canadians on medical cannabis use it for arthritis, now new research shows why pot might be useful for the painful joint condition.

Statistics from Health Canada and the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids (CCIC) indicate that 36% of medical marijuana patients in Canada use cannabis to treat some form of arthritis and newly published research suggests that by interfering with signals at the spinal cord level, synthetic cannabinoids could relieve pain.

In a study funded by Arthritis Research U.K. and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), scientists at the University of Nottingham used rat models of osteoarthritis to offer an explanation why many patients with arthritis rely on marijuana for pain management.

They examined nerve cell sites called 'CB2 receptors' and noted that specific marijuana pathways when activated have “well described anti-inflammatory effects”. Clinical and pre-clinical data collected from the study of tissue samples taken from both rats and humans with osteoarthritic joint damage suggest significant changes in the expression of cannabinoid pathways, which shows that the body naturally facilitates this pain relief mechanism.

The team reported the first evidence for CB2 mRNA expression in the human spinal cord, and demonstrates a negative correlation with joint damage. Researchers concluded that cannabinoids that activate these pathways hold a lot of promise in treating patients during the early stages of osteoarthritis. Arthritis patients represent the largest group of Canadians using medical marijuana for any medical condition according to Jason J. McDougall, PhD, an Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Anaesthesia at Dalhousie University. He believes that apart from synthetic cannabinoids that researchers seem to be taking a special interest in, they should also consider natural cannabis as an effective pain management method.