Study Summary: CBD for Arthritis & Joint Pain

Updated: Oct 9

An August 2022 research study entitled "Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Arthritis and Joint Pain: An Exploratory Cross-sectional Study" that was published in the Journal of Cannabis Research explored the efficacy of the hemp-derived cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) for arthritis.

"The purpose of this study was to explore patient perceived effects of cannabidiol on symptoms of arthritis," reported the research. It noted that patients who have "exhausted conservative measures" and conventional treatments suffer chronic pain and may "resort to symptomatic management with anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen, opioids," and CBD.


Psychoactivity vs. Intoxication

The scientists explained that CBD "is a non-psychoactive* cannabinoid that has shown promise in preclinical studies to reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis." However, many researchers and scientists (including Project CBD) consider CBD and other cannabinoids to be "psychoactive" based on their ability to change the mental state of a consumer. In the case of CBD, some patients and practitioners report significant reductions in anxiety. Technically, this is a psychoactive (psychotropic) response.


Researchers and patients who embrace this approach differentiate CBD from its infamous and more overtly psychoactive sibling THC by labelling the latter "intoxicating." This term does not mean that those who consume THC necessarily experience intoxication (although this is a contentious subject that has generated a great deal of controversy).


Merriam-Webster defines psychoactive as "affecting the mind or behavior, " psychotropic as "acting on the mind," and intoxicating as "to excite or stupefy by alcohol or a drug especially to the point where physical and mental control is markedly diminished."

Those who consume large doses of cannabis—particularly novices and those who indulge in edibles—may experience "intoxication" that manifests as increased anxiety, disorientation, confusion, discomfort, and even full blown panic attacks (which can be so severe that they result in a hospital visit). Thus, many consider both CBD and THC to be psychoactive, simply with THC being much more so and capable, if not dosed correctly, of producing intoxication and negative outcomes in consumers.


Understanding Arthritis

According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis produces "swelling and tenderness of one or more joints" and the primary symptoms are pain in the joints and stiffness. The condition is known to worsen as sufferers age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and the rheumatoid variety.

Image courtesy Leafwize Naturals


Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Type

Osteoarthritis is the most common variety of the disease and involves the breakdown of cartilage (the "hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint"). "Rheumatoid arthritis [a type of inflammatory arthritis] is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints," reported the famous Clinic. However, other types of arthritis exist, including lupus, psoriatic arthritis, gout, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.


According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis produces "swelling and tenderness of one or more joints" and the primary symptoms are pain in the joints and stiffness.

According to the Arthritis Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia reports that more than 100 varieties of arthritis exist in total. The non-profit organization notes that arthritis "is the leading cause of disability in the United States" and that it likely plagues more than 90 million Americans (about one in four U.S. adults). More than 54 million Americans have been diagnosed with arthritis by a medical doctor, including 300,000 cases of juvenile arthritis.


"For people aged 18 to 64, nearly one in three (both men and women) have doctor-diagnosed arthritis and/or report joint symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of arthritis," reports the organization. For those over 65, the Foundation reports that the statistics are much more alarming and severe and that women are more frequently diagnosed. Of those over 65, half of men have arthritis, while two-thirds of women get it.


The Study

The design of this scientific investigation was that of an anonymous questionnaire that was created "to evaluate perceived efficacy of cannabidiol for the treatment of arthritis." It involved a self-selected convenience sample of 428 participants who were recruited "through online methods, including social media accounts and newsletters (The Arthritis Foundation and Savvy Cooperative) between May 5, 2020 and November 5, 2020."


"For people aged 18 to 64, nearly one in three (both men and women) have doctor-diagnosed arthritis."

Statistical analysis, including regression analysis, was performed "to determine differences between types of arthritis and improvements in quality-of-life symptoms" and to "identify variables associated with decreasing or discontinuing other medications."


Results

The researcher's analysis of the data collected from the questionnaire revealed that the study participants reported improvement in pain resulting from their use of CBD. 83 percent of study subjects reported a decrease in pain, 66 percent an improvement of physical function, and 66 percent improvements in sleep quality.


Improvements in physical function occurred most commonly in subjects suffering osteoarthritis. Overall, the participants reported a 44 percent "reduction in pain after CBD use." Also significant, 61 percent of subjects (259) reported a "reduction or cessation of other medications after CBD use."


CBD Reduced Opioid Consumption

Of these, 31 percent reported reductions in anti-inflammatories (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs), 18 percent reduced acetaminophen, and nine percent reduced their opioid consumption. Eighteen percent of participants were able to fully discontinue their use of anti-inflammatories, 18 percent quit acetaminophen, and nearly 19 percent of subjects stopped consuming opioids.


Conclusions

The study's authors concluded that the results of their research mean that both medical professionals and their patients "should be aware of the various alternative therapeutic options available to treat their symptoms of arthritis" and that this awareness is especially important "in light of the increased accessibility to cannabidiol products."


The study stated that its data reveal "associations between CBD use and improvements in patient's arthritis symptoms and reductions in other medications."

The study stated that its data reveal "associations between CBD use and improvements in patient's arthritis symptoms and reductions in other medications." Like thousands of other studies that have investigated the efficacy of hemp, cannabis, and its constituent cannabinoids such as CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it recommended ongoing research that focuses on "the benefits of CBD use in this patient population with clinical trials."


View the original study.


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