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    Is CBD Oil a Treatment for RA?



    Ron Lev was once so afflicted by his RA that he didn’t know what to do.

    Lev, 44 says, “You just have to sit still because it is too painful for you to stand.” “Everything you can picture doing is painful. Even eating can be painful. Driving a car and opening a door to get in, then turning the ignition.

    Lev had been suffering from RA for decades and was ready to give up on it. But he heard about other people who used CBD (Cannabinoids) to ease their pain. So, four years ago, he decided that he would try CBD.

    He says that he had been on steroids for 23-years at the time. The long-term side effects that he had from the medication included bloating, thinned skin and weight gain. “I tried unsuccessfully for a way to get off the steroids but the pain was too severe… so I just continued using them.”

    Lev began using cannabinoids within months. His rheumatologist provided guidance and direction. Lev was able not only to wean himself off steroids but also to spread out his biologic injections from every few months to every six months. Now, he receives his infusions only once a year.

    Lev was astonished at the pain relief CBD gave him and started Reclaim Labs, a CBD company in 2018.

    Stories such as Lev’s are more frequent among those with RA and other autoimmune diseases. According to an Arthritis Foundation poll, only 29 percent of arthritis sufferers report using CBD. However, nearly 80 percent reported using CBD or had used it before.

    There is also increasing scientific evidence, including a September 2020 study in Cell Disease & Death that cannabinoids can relieve pain from RA and act effectively as an anti-inflammatory agent with few side effects, if any — unlike other anti-inflammatory medications like steroids or biologics.

    Anca Askanase MD is a rheumatologist who is also an associate professor and director for rheumatology clinical trial at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “As a society, we embrace both recreational and medicinal marijuana use, and we are seeing that it helps relieve pain, particularly for patients with RA.”

    Research is needed on CBD in RA

    While there are some positive news, Dr. Askanase warns that too many studies does not necessarily equal enough.

    “We are going backwards. It’s been approved before all the research has been done to support it,” she said. “My main concern is that cannabinoids should be understood and used in a more systematic and mindful manner than just saying, “It’s legal, it seems like it works, take some.”

    Askanase, along with her fellow rheumatologists, hesitated to say so. While cannabinoids can reduce inflammation and pain, they can also cause other side effects when smoked. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people suffering from RA have a higher risk of developing lung and heart problems.

    Askanase says another concern is the drug’s potential addictive nature. Askanase explains, “We have learned that many things that act on your brain like cannabinoids do possess some addictive potential.” This is something that should be investigated further.

    The Truth About CBD Oil and RA

    Despite this, it’s not surprising that people with RA say that CBD has helped to reduce their pain.

    A November 2019 survey in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs revealed that 80 percent of those who had tried legalizing cannabis for pain relief described it as very or extremely helpful. Eighty-two percent of those who took over-the counter pain medication reported reducing or stopping their use. 88% of respondents who took opioid analgesics said they had stopped or reduced their use.

    Lev says, “I tried for many years to stop using steroids. It’s extremely difficult to do so.” “CBD is what has kept me off steroids and helped with my pain.

    There is also evidence that cannabis has a strong anti-inflammatory effect. This could be helpful in reducing inflammation and RA. In a May 2019 journal Current Opinion in Rheumatology review, researchers found that “cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory effects by activating Cannabinoid Type 2 receptors, which reduce cytokine formation”. Cytokine is a protein known to be involved in inflammation.

    The authors concluded that cannabis might be a viable treatment option for RA.

    Askanase, who is part of a growing group of rheumatologists that are interested in CBD in RA, cautions that CBD shouldn’t be used alone.

    She says, “We must very clearly make an effort for cannabinoids to be considered supplementary interventions and not to replace the existing disease-modifying treatments we have available.” You should consider CBD as a complementing treatment option. She recommends that you seek out medical marijuana dispensaries. They have medical supervision over the products and can control the amount of cannabis being consumed.



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