Study: 17 percent of rheumatology patients consume weed

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A growing number of patients who suffer from rheumatologic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and fibromyalgia (FM) are consuming cannabis as a treatment. In November, a study, titled, “Cannabis use assessment and its impact on pain in rheumatologic diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” was published in the journal Rheumatology. 

The findings were compiled by a team of researchers from Clermont-Ferrand, France, where cannabis remains to be one of the most popular illicit drugs. Patient data was analyzed through June 2020 to paint a clearer picture on the use of cannabis to treat rheumatologic diseases.

Specifically, the researchers inspected medical records for 10,873 patients; 2,900 of whom were self-confessed cannabis consumers. In order to determine which patients used cannabis to treat rheumatologic disease, consumption was calculated by meta-proportion.

“Nearly 20 percent of patients suffering from rheumatologic diseases actively consume cannabis, with an improvement in pain,” wrote the study authors.

Study on cannabis to treat rheumatologic disease: Patients favor cannabis for self-therapeutic use

In spite of the fact that rheumatologic conditions are often treated with classic analgesic drugs and other over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, the researchers noted that patients tend to exhaust these options with little to no relief from their symptoms. The team hypothesize that, as patients continue enduring pain, they seek out alternative methods of self-therapy; e.g. medical cannabis.

“In this meta-analysis, we found that one in six patients suffering from rheumatologic disease actively consumes cannabis, resulting in pain reduction. A favorable effect of cannabis on pain in our meta-analysis reinforces the idea that cannabis could be used for analgesic purposes,” wrote the researchers, adding that, “the issue of cannabis use in the management of these patients should be addressed during medical consultation, essentially with cannabis-based standardized pharmaceutical products.”

The team of investigators say that their experiment indicates cannabis’ therapeutic potential in clinical settings. However, research and trials into the plant are so far limited. Fortunately, the U.S. House of Congress voted to expand research into medical cannabis on Wednesday. December 9. As a direct effect of this historic vote, research pathways are sure to begin transpiring for scientists not only around the U.S. but also, the rest of the world.

Study on cannabis to treat rheumatologic disease: Plant could be an effective FM treatment 

A broad scope of research into the use of cannabis as a treatment for fibromyalgia was included in the meta-analysis. However, the researchers noted hat there was insufficient data on the use of cannabis for other types of rheumatological conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, spondylitis and lupus. Because of the absence of such data, more research must be conducted to fully understand whether or not cannabis could be a viable method of therapy in various facets of rheumatology. 

Previously conducted studies, such as this one that was recently published by a team of researchers in Brazil, have revealed positive insights into the efficacy of cannabis for symptoms caused by FM. Common symptoms include chronic pain, musculoskeletal pain and fatigue.

While the French study on cannabis to treat rheumatologic disease may have drawn its conclusion from a relatively small sample size, the researchers still expressed their optimism regarding the results.

“Considering the far-reaching damage caused by FM and the effect it can have on individuals, their families, communities, and the public health system, it seems necessary to study alternative, low-cost, and well-tolerated therapies that help patients to regain their well-being and quality of life,” the authors of the study wrote. “The present study aims to evaluate the impact that cannabis oil – a THC-rich whole plant extract can have on symptoms and quality of life of individuals afflicted by FM.”