How and Why I Use Medical Cannabis For Chronic Pain Caused By Rheumatoid Arthritis
Since 2001, medical cannabis has been a legal treatment option in Canada for certain health conditions, including arthritis. While cannabis can’t cure arthritis or slow disease progression, some people report that it helps to alleviate their symptoms. Two thirds of Canadians taking medical cannabis are doing so to help ease the pain of arthritis.
Cannabis is a flowering plant that produces chemicals called cannabinoids, which can be used to treat the symptoms of a number of conditions, including arthritis. These chemicals interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system that can affect pain, inflammation, immune function, appetite, heart function, memory, and mood.
While medical cannabis can’t cure arthritis or slow disease progression, there are studies that demonstrate it can help relieve arthritis pain as well as address sleep issues and anxiety.
When I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis I was not a regular cannabis user – in fact I rare used it except at the odd party here and there. I never really touched anything harder than the odd cocktail. Drugs weren’t my thing, so with it being illegal until October 17 2018 I didn’t think much of using it.
But my diagnosis of severe chronic illness introduced me to a whole new world – pharmaceutical and the cannabis world. Both have been important in my time living with chronic illness, particularly chronic pain. Cannabis now helps with the appetite from fatigue, side effects from medications, heads, pain relief, uplifting my mood.
I prefer to use CBD and THC over opioids for my chronic pain issues.
There are different delivery methods for consuming cannabis. I personally prefer to smoke it because it gives an immediate relief. Cannabis use is a very personal thing, some like to get high with THC and some prefer to never experience that so they only use CBD. What works best for me is a mixture of both and may not work for someone else. Medical professionals do not recommend any type of smoking, so that is a personal choice to make.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a product that’s derived from cannabis. It’s a type of cannabinoid, which are the chemicals naturally found in marijuana plants. Even though it comes from marijuana plants, CBD doesn’t create a “high” effect or any form of intoxication — that’s caused by another cannabinoid, known as THC. THC is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical that can cause a “high” or intoxicated feeling when taken in sufficient doses, but in small doses it can be helpful for some symptoms. THC can help decrease pain, anxiety, tension and nausea. When taken in higher doses, it can heighten sensory perceptions, alter sense of time, and impact motor control. High doses of THC may also bring feelings of anxiety and paranoia for some people.
If you are using medical cannabis for the first time, it’s recommended to start with a CBD-dominant product at the lowest dose, and gradually increase your dosage until your symptom needs are met. Capsules and oil make it easier to accurately track dosage and find the lowest dose for symptom management. Cannabis use can be harmful for individuals with a personal or family history of psychotic illness, substance use disorder or suicidal thoughts. Watch out for anxiety and mental health issues. Sometimes developing a tolerance or experimenting with different strains can help, but overdoing it may cause heightened anxiety.
CBD and grapefruit both interact with enzymes that are important to drug metabolism, such as cytochromes P450 (CYPs). Be extra careful if any of your medications or supplements come with a grapefruit warning.
My favorite products include
Sativa Flower – great day time smoke that is uplifting, energetic and won’t give me couch lock. Some of my favorite sativas include moby dick, alien og, lemon cheesecake and so many more.
Hybrid Flower – a mix of both for those really bad days, classics for me include wedding cake and mimosa.
CBD Oil – I use this when I am aching but need an extra bit of pain relief or need to sleep but pain is getting in the way. Everyone has a different dosage that works for them. I find a mixture of both THC and CBD to be the best for pain relief.
Edibles – for when I need to have a good time, watching movies or at a party. They are also great if you don’ like the taste of CBD oil or hate swallowing pills.
Topical – Topical creams can be applied directly on the skin and are absorbed into the blood stream. Topical creams can have pain-relieving effects at the site of application. I often mix mine after icing and a layer of voltaren. Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful disease, sometimes triple therapy is what you need.
Shatter – for that heavy hitter, when pain gets too much during flares.
This post was written by rheumatoid arthritis patient advocate Eileen Davidson from Vancouver BC Canada. To find out more about her and her advocacy please visit www.chroniceileen.com