Medical Cannabis for Chronic Pain Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis

In June 2020, I had an appointment with the medical cannabis clinic. I had been referred by a physician due to my chronic pain associated with my rheumatoid arthritis. I’ll be honest - I did not know what to think. I never in a million years thought I would even consider taking cannabis for any reason.

While I was researching for my doctor’s visit, I ran across a study that revealed more than 62 percent of patients treat their chronic pain through use of cannabis.1 This article will explore what cannabis is and how it works in our body. I began my journey with medical cannabis in June 2020.

The endocannabinoid system: what is it?

Our body is such a wonderful creation. We have a digestive, nervous, respiratory, lymphatic, immune, and an endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is designed as a way for our bodies to process cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are the primary ingredient in cannabis. It was posted in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health that:2

The endogenous cannabinoid system is one of the most important physiologic systems involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. With its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to see a mechanism that could connect brain activity and states of physical health and disease.

Cannabinods attach to cannabinoid receptors

Cannabinoids strategically attach to cannabinoid (CB) receptors with lock and key precision. They can either inhibit or stimulate various actions in the body. For instance, cannabinoids can be used to inhibit or lessen muscle spasticity, anxiety, and pain. It can, on the other hand, also be used to stimulate appetite and a generalized sense over overall well-being.

Types of CB receptors

CB1 receptors
Primarily found in the brain and central nervous system. These receptors are associated with sensory and motor responsiveness, learning, hunger, decision-making, maintaining equilibrium, and memory.

CB2 receptors
Primarily found outside the central nervous system and most associated with immune function. These receptors are associated with enhancing sleep, controlling seizures, reducing anxiety, and lowering inflammation.

THC and CBD: what's the difference?

THC (delta 9- tetrahydrocannabinol)

THC is the most known cannabinoid and is the main psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. THC acts primarily on the CB1 receptors. It is associated with the "high" associated with cannabis.3 Potential benefits of THC include stimulating the mind, increasing appetite, relaxing muscles, and relieving pain.

CBD (cannabidiol)

CBD is a cannabinoid that lessens the high associated with THC. CBD acts on CB2 receptors. CBD does not provide the euphoric feeling and is associated with reduced pain and inflammation.4 Potential benefits of CBD include enhancing sleep, controlling seizures, reducing anxiety, and lowering inflammation.

THC and CBD in cannabis-based medications

Cannabis-based medications include the cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. They include THC, CBD, or a combination of THC and CBD.5 THC and CBD are the most known compounds in the sativa and indica species of cannabis.6

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