Cannabis Patient Care - August 2022

Cannabis Patient Care - August 2022

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24 cannabis patient care | vol. 3 no. 2 nurse focus The Latest News on Cannabis and Autoimmune Disease B Y E L O I S E T H E I S E N , N P, A G P C N P - B C D ESPITE THEIR PREVALENCE among the gener- al population, autoimmune diseases remain large- ly misunderstood. There are currently more than 80 identified autoimmune disorders (1) impacting nearly every part of the human body. Each is characterized by an im- proper response by the body's immune system, which attacks healthy cells mistakenly interpreted as foreign invaders. De- pending on which part of the body is targeted, this response can lead to a variety of chronic and sometimes deadly diseas- es like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), and others. Normally, the human immune system can distinguish for- eign cells in a body from a person's own cells. With an auto- immune disease, the immune system mistakes part of a per- son's body—like the joints or skin—as foreign. Physicians and researchers do not know exactly what causes the immune system to misfire, but they have identified that some people are more likely to develop autoimmune disease than others. Some autoimmune diseases are more common among certain ethnic groups. For example, lupus impacts more African Amer- ican and Hispanic ethnicities than Caucasians. In addition, certain autoimmune diseases like lupus and multiple sclerosis run in families and can be genetic. Many patients have found cannabis to be an effective treat- ment for the symptoms often associated with many of these ailments. Pain, inflammation, and spasms are common symp- toms of many autoimmune diseases, as well as fatigue, mus- cle aches, swelling, and skin redness or irritation. These symptoms may come and go over time and can also be unique to a specific illness. Can Cannabis Help? While there are no cures for autoimmune diseases, some treat- ments can help manage the overactive immune response and reduce inflammation and pain. Traditional treatments for symp- toms of many autoimmune diseases include the use of steroids as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibu- profen and naproxen for pain. However, utilizing cannabis as a treatment has been gaining traction as research has uncovered the connections between autoimmune diseases, the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other cannabinoids. Specifically, there is growing evidence (2) to support the involvement of the ECS in both inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes typical with MS and ALS. Additional research supports the role of cannabinoid receptors (3) as therapeutic targets for autoim- mune disease as well as cannabis as a medicinal remedy (4) for symptoms related to RA, MS, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Studies also reveal that cannabis has been found to be an effective treatment for some autoimmune diseases' most common symptoms, including pain (5), inflammation, insomnia, muscle relaxation (6), and appetite stimulation. In addition, cannabis has been found to help reduce polypharmacy (7) by helping patients eliminate or taper off prescribed pharmaceuti- cals, and animal research shows that CBD may help to slow the progression of ALS (8) in some patients. The Patient Journey While it is impossible to know if cannabis can help every patient manage symptoms of an autoimmune disease, there is enough supporting evidence to suggest that patients seeking relief might consider incorporating it into their health regimen. The first step should always be to consult with a cannabis clinician or connect with a cannabis-trained registered nurse at Leaf411 (9) for information on how cannabis might be beneficial for your specific condition. Patients uncomfortable with smok- ing or vaping cannabis need not be concerned. Today, there are a wide variety of consumption methods including edibles, tinc- tures, topicals, and others that allow patients to experience the benefits of cannabis without inhalation. The biggest challenge Evidence suggests that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other cannabinoids can be beneficial in the treatment of many symptoms related to autoimmune diseases

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