Marijuana use, Chronic pain, and Autoimmune disorders

Marijuana has been making progress in its legality in the US lately, with many politicians arguing that the criminalization of such a mild recreational drug has caused many more problems than it has solved. This seems to be a good thing from a legal standpoint, but it has also opened doors for more research involving marijuanas potential health benefits or detriments.

It may come as no surprise that many people suffering from chronic pain or injury use marijuana (or other recreational drugs) to self medicate when their prescribed treatments just aren't cutting it. But up until recently it has been nearly impossible to test accurately to find out just how effective it is. Patients are unlikely to be truthful with their doctors if they are using it, and the morality and legality of using it in studies is grey and muddled. But now, research is on the rise with more information to come. And it looks like marijuana might have some benefits we never considered before, namely for patients with autoimmune disorders.

In addition to being an unsurprising success for pain management, even better than its legal and more addictive counterparts (see sources 1 and 2), it seems that it also has immunosuppressant benefits for those with autoimmune disorders (such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis). Cannabinoids (the official term for all versions of the drug) have been showing that they gently suppress the users immune system. Something I've noticed is that many immunosuppressant drugs are too harsh, opening up the user to infection and often times symptoms that far outweigh the ones they started with. In fact, it's become so accepted that many of us joke about it, when really we should have been outraged by the lack of sufficient medications for us.

But with the use of cannabis, there are a lot of health concerns that may or may not be warranted. Now, any stoner will easily go on a rant about hemp and the laundry list of miracles for which marijuana is allegedly responsible. But, from a more realistic standpoint, smoking anything whether it is pot of tobacco or (dare I reference?) lettuce leaves is going to damage your body over time. When dealing with the downsides to tobacco use, most of the issues revolve around the smoke. The behaviors associated with marijuana use are even thought to be only exaggerated by the drug, not placed there (the lazy stoner would be lazy with or without the pot, the pot just makes them extra lazy).

For me, this new information about marijuana rings personally true. I started developing symptoms of lupus when I was just 13 years old, and it wasn't all too long after that that I started smoking marijuana. Now, I'm not going to lie to you and claim I was doing it for pain management. I wasn't, I was a kid trying to have fun. And I did so, recreationally, up until I was 20 years old. At 20 years old, I had my very first panic attack (due to an unrelated issue) and like many people with generalized anxiety disorder, I developed certain triggers for panic attacks. One trigger for me was movie theaters. One of the first terrible panic attacks I ever had was in the opening credits of a film in theaters and from then on, being in a movie theater sparks my anxiety. And another one of those triggers is the smell of marijuana. So I cut it out of my life entirely.

I don't know much about the correlation vs causation here, but within months of me cutting marijuana out of my life, I developed rapid inflammation that made me malnourished. I was injecting myself with b12 and living on a strict diet of vegetables and supplements again, much like I did when I was 14. And in the 5 years to follow, my lupus seems to have progressed more than it had in all my other years combined. In present day, I have quite a few more ailments and issues to deal with than I had just 5 years ago, and my symptoms surface much more frequently.

Of course, lupus is a tricky disease, and I wasn't exactly a part of a double blind study during all of this so it could just as easily be coincidence. And since the only way for me to test my anecdotal hypothesis would be impossible (smoking would yield one helluva panic attack) it seems I'll just have to wait to read more studies as they are done on the subject. But I won't be surprised when Cannabinoids become the latest script to replace steroids. One can only hope.

And hey, when that day comes, I might just try a little harder to get over my anxiety triggers.









8 responses on “Marijuana use, Chronic pain, and Autoimmune disorders

  1. Since it’s the smell of marijuana that causes your panic attacks, have you tried ingesting it to see if it helps? You could even have a friend make the canna-butter and just have the tasty product

    • The problem with cooking marijuana is that the high is very different and often far more intense than smoking, vaporizing, or administering thc directly. For some people, the high that comes with cooked MJ is an unpleasant experience. And for me, that’s been the case since long before I ever had anxiety issues.

      • I have an acute anxiety disorder, and I quit using cannabis for the same reason you did, because I saw it as a trigger for panic attacks. They’re awful. But, since my wife has lupus, I decided to try again, since I became convinced that cannabis would be a great way for her to mitigate the discomfort associated with her disorder. Strains that are beneficial to her, the medical variety, are high in CBDs, also work as perfect anxiety cure for me. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural, and very effective, anxiolytic. It is this cannabinoid which researchers think mitigate anxiety in humans. However, strains very high in THC but low in CBDs, do in fact trigger anxiety disorders, and panic attacks. If you feel like you would like to try cannabis to ease the symptoms associated with lupus, try a strain high in CBDs. Also, smoking is passe. Everyone vaporizes now! Very mild and pleasant. Regardless, I hope that you find relief!

  2. It has helped me. I guess it depends on the person? I have been flare free for almost 4 years since I started a cannabis regime…I just recently fell ill due to several triggers…but I have never been more prepared. Thanks for sharing.

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