How Does Medical Marijuana Help With and Treat Sickle Cell Anemia?

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Sickle cell is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that affects the molecule in red blood cells known as hemoglobin. Hemoglobin plays a crucial function in the body as it helps in delivering oxygen throughout the body. People suffering from the sickle cell disease have atypical hemoglobin molecules known as hemoglobin S, which distorts the shape of the red blood cells. The normal red blood cells are supposed to be disc-shaped, but people with the sickle cell disease have a crescent or sickle shaped red blood cells. The sickle shaped cells are not flexible and cannot change shape easily and this explains why many of the cells burst apart as they move through the blood vessels. It is imperative to note that normal cells last between 90 to 120 days, whereas sickle cells only last for 10 to 20 days. This therefore implies that the bodies of people with the sickle cell disease often find trouble making enough cells to replace the lost ones, and many of them end up not having enough red blood cells, thereby resulting in anemia, which is characterized by shortage of blood and the feeling of tiredness. The sickle shaped cells can also cause blockage or halt the flow of blood by sticking to the walls of the vessels. When this happens, oxygen is unable to reach nearby tissues and this often results in sudden attacks and severe pains which are known as a crisis. Crisis sometimes occurs without warning and a patient might need to go to the hospital for treatment. Sickle cell is an inherited disease and people suffering from it are born with two sickle cell genes, one from each parent. However, people who are born with one sickle gene are known to have sickle cell traits and even though they are generally healthy, it is possible for them to pass the defective gene to their children. Early symptoms of sickle include fatigue from anemia, painful swellings in the hands and feet as well as a yellowish color of the skin (jaundice).

Sickle cell has a risky cure option which is known as bone marrow or stem cell transfer. However, there are other treatments that can ease the symptoms, lessen the complications and result in longer life. These treatment methods include the use of antibiotics and pain relievers, blood transfusions and childhood immunization.

Many patients have resorted to the use of medical marijuana to treat some of the symptoms of sickle cell disorder. Researchers have also carried out a few studies on the link between medical marijuana and the treatment of sickle cell disorder. Evidences are pointing to the fact that medical marijuana could be an alternative effective treatment of sickle cell anemia. Considering that the primary symptom that is associated with sickle cells is prolonged pain, it is apparent that the quality of a patient’s life may be dramatically diminished by the symptoms. Medical marijuana has on its part, been proven a great alternative for pain relief, but without adverse side effects like those of other traditional pain killers like Morphine and opioids. The truth is that medical cannabis is well known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

According to a study that was published in the Blood Journal in 2010, the researchers examined the pain-related behaviors, correlative neurochemical changes, and analgesic effects of morphine and cannabinoids in transgenic mice expressing human sickle hemoglobin. Findings from this study revealed that cannabinoids alleviated the pain within the mice.

In 2010, a Canadian study on the use of smoked cannabis as a management therapy for chronic pain revealed that a single inhalation (25 mg) three times a day reduced the intensity of pain and improved the patient’s sleep. The same study also found out that the smoked cannabis was well tolerated by patients.

Reports from July 2018 also have it that the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia, in partnership with Biotech Research Laboratories and the Phoenix Tear Foundation is in the process of raising money for the first clinical study that will focus on the effectiveness of cannabis oil in sickle cell disease related pain management. It should be noted that cannabis oil has the potentials of relieving chronic pain as well as inflammation.

Even though there are limited studies on the use of cannabis in treating sickle cell disorder as a result of strict government laws, many patients have started self-medicating with medical marijuana. The upcoming medical cannabis studies which is led by Biotic Research Laboratories will therefore be the first of its kind in the US.

Some of the strains of medical marijuana that are recommended in the effective treatment of the symptoms of sickle cell disorder include sativa, hybrid, and indica strains.

Sources:

Medline Plus
Cannabis Blog
Sickle Cell Anemia News

Marijuana strains reported to help with Sickle Cell Anemia:

How To Get Medical Marijuana

If you are a resident of a legal state interested in trying medical marijuana to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD) or other medical conditions, you will first need to consult with a certified doctor in order to get a medical marijuana card. To get started, simply fill out the MMJ patient registration form, press submit and a physician or clinic representative will contact you as available.