Cannabis Could Be Reversing Damage to Arthritic Joints

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Patients report that cannabis puts arthritis into remission, so the Arthritis Society funds the research to find out if it’s true.

There’s good news for the 54 million people who suffer from arthritis: A study commissioned by The Arthritis Society is investigating avenues toward developing breakthrough therapies using medical cannabis.

Canadian researcher, Dr. Jason McDougall, received a Strategic Operating Grant from the organization to complete a three-year study on the ability of cannabis to effectively repair arthritic joints. McDougall is a professor of pharmacology and anesthesia at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and one of the world’s foremost pain researchers.

The study aims to discover if cannabis-based medicine does more than simply dulls pain for arthritis suffers—what if it can actually reverse the damage? It’s the first research funded by the organization to look directly into therapies derived from medical cannabis.

“People living with arthritis pain are looking for alternatives to improve their quality of life,” said Janet Yale, president and CEO of The Arthritis Society. “We need research to help answer the many important questions around medical cannabis and its use. Our goal is to give Canadians the ability to make informed choices about their treatment options and to give physicians evidence-based guidelines to make treatment recommendations for their patients. This project is an important step to achieving these goals.”

The research builds on previous work from Chinese scientists who found that not only do arthritic joints contain extremely high concentrations of CB2 receptors, but that those sites also suggest a pathway for treatment.

What is a CB2 receptor? In layman’s terms, CB2 is a molecule in the cell wall that acts as a doorway for cannabinoids to enter the cell. It’s the cell’s way of flagging down helpful particles that circulate past it during the day-to-day functioning of the body.

While the body produces its own endocannabinoids that can attach and work on a cell through CB2 receptors, cannabis-based medicine also has the ability to walk through the same door. Researchers believe this may be the reason why cannabis is effective in treating disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.

The thinking goes like this: If cannabis-based medicine can use CB2 receptors to move inside of cells and directly affect the firing of pain signals in the joints, can the medicine also repair joint damage while it’s there?