Study shows cannabis could provide pain-related mood relief in patients with sickle cell disease


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Researchers investigating the potential of using cannabis for sickle cell disease has hypothesized that the green plant may enhance mood among and reduce chronic pain among patients who are suffering from the disease. 

Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the study on cannabis for sickle cell disease could stimulate a wave of similar future studies into the plant’s therapeutic qualities.  Based on the principle study’s findings, cannabis was a relatively safe intervention.

Progressive research into the potential treatment options for SCD patients led to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approving three different medications between the years 2017 and 2019. More drugs are currently in the development stage. 

However, with side effects and potential addictive qualities associated with over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, cannabis a non-addictive and all-natural substance is emerging as a viable option for, at the very least, experimenting with among sickle cell disease patients.

What is sickle cell disease?

Health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that sickle cell disease is triggered by a red blood cell disorder. It is the specific blood cell count in patients that results in cells bending into a sickle-shaped form. The problem with this is that sickle red blood cells do not survive as long as other cells that proliferate throughout body and therefore an individual with this disease may lack oxygen.

In addition to the fact that sickle cell disease may weaken the level of oxygen being transported around the body, this debilitating disease can also contribute to the clogging of small blood vessels. Consequently, this may cause acute or chronic pain, serious cardiovascular problems and/or stubborn infections. 

Over-the-counter analgesics, like aspirin and ibuprofen, are commonly prescribed to patients who have been diagnosed with this inherited disorder of haemoglobin. Statistics show that as many as 90,000 people in the U.S. struggle with sickle cell anemia.

New sickle cell disease treatment options need to be explored

Initially brought to doctors attention more than 100 years ago, when sickle cell anemia (SCA) was first discussed in Western literature, this disease has long-been investigated by scientists who have sought out remedial answers. The pathophysiology of sickle cell disease was made clear when it’s molecular basis was elucidated; this led to various biochemical and genetic studies being carried out.

Within the last 10 years, heaps of intense research has led to the dominant γ-globin gene repressor being discovered by scientists. Thanks to this monumental breakthrough, doctors have gained insights into the ways they can regulate hemoglobin production in patients. Nonetheless, due to the potential side effects of opioids and OTC meds, doctors should consider collaborating with more scientists/researchers as a means of discovering cannabis-derived medicines for sickle cell disease.