Results of a recent University of Minnesota Medical School study suggest that a marijuana compound may be an alternative treatment option for patients suffering from the chronic pain associated with sickle cell disease.
Using an animal model, lead investigator Kalpna Gupta and his colleagues monitored the neural pathways of subjects that were experiencing musculoskeletal pain and temperature sensitivity, two of the more prominent symptoms often experienced by sickle cell disease patients.
The research team then treated the animals with opioids—the traditional pain remedy for sickle cell disease—or cannabinoids, a synthetic marijuana compound.
They discovered that not only did cannabinoids lessen pain with the same effectiveness as conventional medication, it did so in much smaller doses.
"This paper provides proof that we can use other classifications of drugs to treat pain in patients with sickle cell disease," said Gupta. "Cannabinoids offer great promise in the treatment of chronic and acute pain, and they’re effective in much lower amounts than opioids—the only currently approved treatment for this disease."
He added that opioids have been known to adversely affect a patient’s kidneys and blood vessels when taken in the doses necessary to treat the chronic pain associated with sickle cell disease.