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The Connection Between Cannabis and Lupus

Written by Alexandra Hicks

Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease that’s increasing in prevalence in the United States, and many people are searching for relief in the form of cannabis. 

Lupus is chronic condition, inflammatory-based, in which the body’s immune system becomes too active and begins to attack normal, healthy tissue and organs. The effects of lupus can be widespread, impacting the skin, kidneys, blood, heart, and lungs. Lupus is mainly seen in women between the ages of 15 to 44, although in some rare cases, men and infants can be affected as well. African American women are more likely to suffer from lupus than any other race.

There are 4 different types of lupus; Systemic (most common), Cutaneous (skin only), Drug-induced, and neonatal (to infants of affected mothers). Aside from cutaneous, all the other types of Lupus share similar symptoms which include: Fatigue, fever, joint pain, stiffness and swelling, chest pain, difficulty breathing, headaches, rashes.

There is no cure for lupus and the number of cases continue to rise in most of the developed world, particularly in the United States. Treatment options vary but many patients are turning to cannabis to ease their symptoms, and the results seem promising.

Does Cannabis Actually Work?

At the moment, there are no studies or clinical trials looking specifically at the use of cannabis to treat symptoms of lupus. There is, however, interesting research on how cannabinoids interact with the immune system.

According to the findings of a prominent, 2010 study, “Cannabinoids have been tested in several experimental models of autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis and hepatitis and have been shown to protect the host from the pathogenesis through induction of multiple anti-inflammatory pathways.”

The study went on to explain that “Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory response and subsequently attenuate disease symptoms. This property of cannabinoids is mediated through multiple pathways such as induction of apoptosis in activated immune cells, suppression of cytokines and chemokines at inflammatory sites and upregulation of FoxP3+ regulatory T cells.”

Based on these discoveries alone, lupus-focused research is certainly warranted, but legal hurdles and issues with product consistency remain barriers to overcome.

What Kind Of Numbers?

A survey conducted by LupusCorner discovered that 36 percent of the 781 people interviewed use cannabis in some capacity. Out of those, 83% said it helped their symptoms and they would recommend it to others. 71 percent report smoking it, while a total of 40 percent use some type of CBD-only product like oil, hemp flowers, or softgels.

Something else noteworthy about this study is that 96% of people say they had no discussion with their primary care provider about the use of cannabis for treating Lupus. Briana Smith, 27-year-old from Texas says that she’s been using CBD oil for a long time to treat her symptoms once they started becoming frighteningly severe. She did this without any advice from a medical professional.

“To this day, it’s still a question that I’m too afraid to ask my doctor.”

This disconnect between doctors and patients indicates that people are relying on their own research and recommendations from people they know. Self-medicating can be empowering, but also complicated when dealing with an unregulated industry.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.