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Sickle Cell Disease & Medical Marijuana in Ohio

Medical Marijuana Benefits Individuals with Sickle Cell Disease

100,000 people in the United States alone are affected by Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). It is the most common of genetic blood disorders. Despite medical advancements that prolong life expectancy, severe forms of SCD can shorten lives by up to 30 years. “People with SCD have abnormal red blood cells that prevent blood from reaching the body’s tissues and organs, causing crippling pain, infection, and in some cases, stroke and other serious health problems” [1]. SCD causes chronic pain for which doctors prescribe opioids that are increasingly difficult to obtain. Studies prove medical marijuana is becoming the least restrictive pain management option available for those with SCD [2].

If you’re wondering if medical marijuana (MMJ) is right for you, schedule an exam with one of our Ohio Marijuana Doctors. Completing our eligibility survey takes only 5 minutes. Find out if you pre-qualify for a recommendation!

Medical Marijuana: An Alternative to Opioids

A study published in the journal, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research investigated how medical marijuana benefits those living with SCD. Called “Marijuana Use in Adults Living with Sickle Cell Disease,” the study interviewed 130 adults living with SCD, of which 42% had used marijuana in the past two years [3]. 79% of those patients reported eliminating or reducing prescription medications after using marijuana for pain. Many seek marijuana as a more natural therapy to opioids or because other kinds of medications don’t relieve pain.

Once SCD was legalized in the state of Connecticut, the number of requests for medical marijuana certificates greatly increased, a definite sign that patients of sickle cell disease are looking for alternatives to manage their pain. The study shows that legalization of marijuana for those living with SCD will result in the reduction of the use of marijuana for illicit purposes, though the reasons behind how cannabinoids relieve the symptoms of SCD require further clinical research[4].

15 patients living with SCD were the subject of another study published in May of 2019 and titled “Management of Chronic Pain in Adults Living with Sickle Cell Disease in the Era of the Opioid Epidemic.” The study investigated concerns about the restrictions on opioid prescriptions in the United States and how they affect those living with SCD. It found that opioids are typically the only medications prescribed to patients with SCD and that, despite the increased difficulty to obtain opioid prescriptions, doctors do not tend to prescribe nonopioid medicines or alternative therapies [2].

SCD Patients Use Cannabis to Relieve Pain, Anxiety, and Depression

Some participants admitted to using marijuana because it is the least restrictive nonopioid therapy available. When asked if opioids were difficult to obtain, one anonymous patient said, “Yes, the hydrocodone pills. Because once CVS got their first prescription there’s only just that 1 prescription and then I needed a refill or whatever [after taking public transportation to pharmacy]. I had to like go back to my clinic and tell them I need a refill. They have to send it upstairs [and] I had to take it up there myself. Then I have to take the [public transportation] and this paper back to CVS. Then CVS said they’re missing something so I had to go back to my clinic. Honestly, really and truly, I do not use my pain medicine [opioids]…I smoke [marijuana].” 

Another participant stated, “They had me on 180 milligrams of oxycodone and 30 milligrams of methadone. That was my pain regimen at home every day. I went from a very social person to a very isolated person and I would sleep all the time. I told my family, my pastor, and friends I am really close to [about using marijuana]. I only vape when I am in pain or when I feel it so it is not an everyday thing for me. I won’t say I was able to replace all my medicine except for the muscle relaxer but no more opioids. As of right now, I’m not affected by the opioid epidemic because I took myself out of it” [2]. 

It is common for those with chronic illnesses to feel sadness and frustration because coping with pain can be stressful and can keep them from engaging in social activities [5]. While patients with SCD that use marijuana do so mostly to relieve pain and inflammation, they also report it lessens symptoms of depression and anxiety without the negative side effects brought on by opioids [2]. 

Those living with SCD who are recommended for medical marijuana use should consider the following pain-relieving strains in their treatment regimen:

  • Big Wreck (Indica): A relaxing, mellow strain that helps with insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
  • Mother of Berries (Indica): Aids with depression and insomnia resulting from the stress of dealing with pain.
  • Purple Dream (Hybrid): Fights pain, but also great for anxiety, depression, stress, and fatigue.
  • Fortune Cookies (Sativa-dominant hybrid): Helps with anxiety, depression, and stress.

Is medical marijuana right for me?

Whether medical marijuana will help your condition depends on many factors best evaluated by a medical doctor. If you feel you may benefit from medical marijuana, the first step is to take our eligibility survey. In just 5 minutes, you could pre-qualify for a recommendation. An Ohio Marijuana Doctor can then determine if you qualify during an in-person exam. For more information, visit https://docmj.com/ohio/.