Does Medical Marijuana Treat Lyme Disease in Ohio?
Medical marijuana continues to grow in popularity across the United States. New Jersey is looking into new laws to expand their medical marijuana program and Michigan, Utah, and Missouri have voted to legalize marijuana for medical use as well. In many of these States, and locally in Ohio, Lyme disease is a serious, but common, concern and many people continue to suffer despite using traditional pharmaceuticals. In this post, we will cover what Lyme disease is, what causes it, and how medical marijuana can help those living with it.
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What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by an infection of the bacteria Borrelia. Borrelia is a species of bacteria with the most common one in the United States being Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are usually transmitted to humans through the bite of a blacklegged tick. After the person is infected, they can develop fever, headache, fatigue, and a trademark “bullseye” rash indicative of the disease. It is also possible for the tick to transmit other diseases to humans as well.
Generally, Lyme disease is diagnosed through examination of the physical symptoms, most notably the skin rash. In some cases, lab testing may be used to confirm the diagnosis. If caught early, Lyme disease is usually quickly and totally cured through the use of antibiotics in both children and adults.
If left untreated, however, Lyme disease can progress and cause more serious problems. After several days or months, the infected person may develop severe headaches, facial palsy, heart palpitations, nerve pain, inflammation of the central nervous system, and memory problems.
Even with proper medical care, there is a small chance that patients may develop Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS). It is estimated that between ten and twenty percent of those infected develop this condition. The known symptoms include pain, fatigue, and difficulty thinking for more than six months following treatment.
Luckily, the prevention of Lyme disease is simple and the CDC provides many helpful tips:
- Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents
- Avoid contact with ticks
- Check your clothing for ticks
- Shower within two hours of being outdoors
- Check your body and pets for ticks after being outdoors
While there was once a Lyme disease vaccine, production stopped in 2002. Due to the protection of the vaccine wearing off, if you were once vaccinated, it is likely you are no longer protected. For more information on Lyme disease, you can visit the CDC and Mayo Clinic online.
How Does Medical Marijuana Help those with Lyme Disease?
Recently, patients have come forward sharing their stories of how medical marijuana has helped ease their Lyme disease related symptoms. In general, most users have the chronic symptoms associated with long-term Lyme disease, such as chronic pain, inflammation, and sleep problems. Some patients also find success using marijuana to combat other tick-borne illnesses.
One of the most common uses of marijuana is as a pain-reliever. This has been a known use-case for many years and is becoming more mainstream today for good reason. Specifically to Lyme disease, marijuana may help fight neuropathic pain. A 2015 review of six randomized controlled trials and two hundred and twenty-six total patients concluded that there was evidence for use of medical marijuana along with traditional medicine . Some other studies have found similar results .
Some researchers believe the secret of marijuana’s pain-relieving effects lies in its ability to combat inflammation. This has been mentioned in several research papers  and some mechanisms have already been uncovered . It was found that marijuana acts on inflammation by a separate mechanism compared to NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). This is important, because many people with Lyme disease have reported NSAIDS as ineffective for them, and marijuana as helping “close the gap”. Marijuana has also been shown to have neuroprotective effects , which may further help those with Lyme disease.
Medical marijuana may also help those with problems sleeping. Due to the pain and inflammation caused by Lyme disease, many people have trouble falling asleep. Luckily, some studies have found marijuana to be effective as a sleep-aid. One study compared CBD and THC, two of the main cannabinoids produced in marijuana, and concluding that CBD has potential in insomnia therapy . The same study goes on to say that CBD may specifically help those with REM sleep behavior disorder (which may have to do with the sedation effects of the chemical) and daytime sleepiness.
Medical marijuana causes a variety of effects that may help those living with Lyme disease and even PTLDS. This includes use a sleep-aid, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic. In fact, some patients have found medical marijuana to be more effective than traditional pharmaceuticals.
However, when considering medical marijuana, it is crucial to weigh both the pros and cons. Medical marijuana may cause some potentially harmful side effects, including dizziness, fatigue, paranoia, and dissociation. These side effects may also increase the risk of injury in a group of people already at an increased risk. It is also important to note that these side effects can change depending on both the method of delivery and dosage.
Dr. Rothman is a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He has received multiple special awards and recognitions, including Physician of the Year, from the Pinellas County Medical Association (2014 – 2015) and the President’s Service Award from the Pinellas County Medical Society.
He attended medical school at State University of New York Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York, where he also completed his Obstetrics and Gynecology residency. In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Rothman’s professional career includes being an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida and Clinical Instructor at the University of Tampa’s College of Nursing.
Dr. Rothman received his Florida Medical Marijuana Physicians Certification in 2016 and was one of the first recommending physicians through DocMJ in the state and is loved by many of those early patients today.