Updated: Feb 10
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An August 2022 study entitled "Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Arthritis & Joint Pain: An Exploratory Cross-sectional Study" that was published in the Journal of Cannabis Research explored the potential positive medical outcomes of the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) for arthritis and pain of the joints.
"An estimated 54 million Americans [23 percent of adults] currently suffer from debilitating arthritis," declared the study. Of those, the research reported that many have exhausted "conservative measures" and, therefore, suffer from chronic pain. Such arthritis patients may resort to self-medication via "anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen, and opioids," many of which are known to sometimes produce undesirable side effects, including addiction/dependence and other issues.
The study's authors examined CBD, the major non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has "shown promise in preclinical studies to reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis." The study's declared purpose was to "explore patient perceived effects of cannabidiol on symptoms of arthritis."
CBD and THC "are the most pharmacologically active phytocannabinoids" in cannabis and THC features "well-established effects on pain," but its psychoactive effects "may hinder its application."
The researchers noted that CBD and delta-9 THC "are the most prevalent, pharmacologically active phytocannabinoids" produced by cannabis and that THC features "well-established effects on pain," but that the psychoactive effects it delivers "may hinder its application." In reality, many patients—for a wide variety of reasons—either cannot tolerate or do not desire the psychoactivity of THC.
"In contrast, CBD lacks the psychoactive properties of THC but has anti-inflammatory, antinociceptivem [pain reducing], and antioxidant effects, making it an intriguing target for the treatment of pain and inflammatory conditions, including the numerous manifestations of arthritis," reported the study.
Image courtesy Leafwize Naturals
The design of this scientific investigation was that of an anonymous questionnaire "created to evaluate perceived efficacy of cannabidiol for the treatment of arthritis." A self-selected sample of 428 people was recruited via "online methods, including social media accounts and newsletters from The Arthritis Foundation and Savvy Cooperative between May 5 and November 5 of 2020."
The study found that arthritis patients who had used CBD "were younger than patients who had not used CBD" and were more likely to reside in a Western state. Sixty-four percent of participants were female, with 33 percent reporting as male.
Arthritis strikes all groups of society and that there were "no significant differences between groups with regard to gender, ethnicity, location, highest education, or income."
The research revealed that arthritis strikes all groups of society and that there were "no significant differences between groups with regard to gender, ethnicity, location, highest education, or income."
The study took into account different types of arthritis and the various kinds of improvement experienced in terms of "quality-of-life symptoms." It also identified variables associated with "decreasing or discontinuing other medications" in an effort to gather more accurate data.
The data collected and analyzed by the researchers indicated that arthritis patients using CBD often experienced improvements in their symptoms. Of all study participants, 83 percent experienced decreased pain, 66 percent reported improved physical function, and 66 percent said they gained better sleep quality. A bit less than half of participants (38 percent) reported that CBD helped make their average daily pain "much better."
Improvements in physical function were found to occur most in arthritis patients with osteoarthritis, the group that reported experiencing the greatest reduction in pain. "The overall cohort [subject pool] reported a 44 percent reduction in pain after CBD use," reported the study. In addition, "increasing frequency of CBD use was associated with improvements in pain intensity, physical function, and sleep quality."
CBD Reduced Use of Opioids
One thing that the majority of respondents had in common was reporting a "reduction or cessation of other medications after CBD use," something experienced by 259 participants, or 61 percent of the cohort. This included reductions in anti-inflammatories among 31 percent of study participants, reduced use of acetaminophen in 18 percent of subjects, and a reduction in opioids within nine percent.
A notable percentage of study participants were able to go one step further and discontinue their use of these pharmaceutical drugs, with 18 percent quitting anti-inflammatories, 18 percent giving up acetaminophen, and 19 percent able to discontinue opioids.
"Those that used CBD once a day or more were more likely to reduce or stop other medications."
"Compared to participants with osteoarthritis, participants in the autoimmune group were 19 percent more likely to reduce or stop the use of other medications," while participants with rheumatoid arthritis were 37 percent less likely.
Again, the researchers found that the frequency of CBD use was an important determinant of whether patients gained a positive outcome. "Those that used [CBD] once a day [or more] were more likely to reduce or stop other medications as compared to those taking CBD less than once a month," reported the study.
Despite significant positive outcomes in the majority of study participants, some side effects were observed. Within the cohort, 41 percent of participants said they experienced "at least one side effect." Of these, 84 percent considered them mild and 14 percent moderate, while only two percent considered their CBD side effects "severe."
The side effects experienced included dry mouth (affecting 20 percent of participants), drowsiness/somnolence (17 percent), increased or decreased appetite (nine percent), dry eyes (nine percent), impaired concentration (five percent), dizziness (four percent), headache (four percent), and digestive complaints (four percent).
The study's authors concluded that arthritis patients and their caregivers and clinicians "should be aware of the various alternative therapeutic options available to treat their symptoms of arthritis, especially in light of the increased accessibility to cannabidiol [CBD] products."
Arthritis patients and their caregivers "should be aware of the alternative therapeutic options available to treat their arthritis, especially with increased accessibility to CBD products."
They declared that their data reveal an association between CBD use and "improvements in patient's arthritis symptoms and reductions in other medications." Like most cannabis studies, this one recommended additional clinical trials involving humans that should focus on "exploring the benefits of CBD use in this patient population."
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