Lupus is an autoimmune disease of inflammation. It can affect joints, skin, and even vital organs such as the brain and heart as the immune system attacks tissues and organs in the body. Symptoms of the disease can vary, and people experience them at different rates or severity. Some of the most common include:
Stiffness and swelling
Distinctive facial rash
The most common form of lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) which affects multiple organs in the body.
We know that cannabis is widely used to relieve inflammation, so it makes sense that it would bring relief to those with lupus. But can it do more? How far can cannabis go as a treatment for lupus, and should it be discussed with your doctor? Let’s take a look at the current research.
Living with lupus
The cause of lupus can be genetic, environmental, or a combination of both. A predisposition to the disease can lead to the possibility of it being triggered by things such as sunlight, infections, or certain medications such as ones for blood pressure, anti-seizure, and antibiotics. Most experience their first symptoms between the ages of 15 and 45.
But lupus can be far more than just inflammation. The kidneys are the most at risk, with kidney failure being a leading cause of death associated with lupus. The brain and central nervous system can also be affected, creating side effects such as confusion, dizziness, headaches, behavior changes, vision issues, strokes, or seizures. Lupus can also cause anemia, blood clotting, and issues with the lungs, heart, and bones. Risk of heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, bone tissue death, as well as pneumonia and difficulty breathing increase. Lupus also lends itself to complications during pregnancy, and increases the risk of infections and possibly cancer.
With treatment, remission and controlling the disease is possible, but there is currently no cure. Currently, those diagnosed with lupus can look to prescription medications for relief, but many are also looking to cannabis.
So far, there’s very little research that explores cannabis as a treatment for lupus. But there are a few relevant studies, and even more anecdotal evidence.
Although they do not address lupus specifically, there are several studies that examine cannabis’ effect on inflammation. As for studies directly related to cannabis for lupus? There’s currently no such noteworthy research.
According to a LupusCorner survey, 83% of the 381 people who reported using cannabis said they would recommend it to others. The same survey reports that 96% of people did not discuss cannabis with their doctor. This lack of physician involvement, along with the lack of research on the topic, means that people with lupus are pursuing cannabis as alternative medicine on their own accord or at the referral of friends.
Using cannabis for lupus
Brianna Smith, 27, was diagnosed with lupus nephritis at the age of 25. It took four months of severe symptoms—such as nausea, mouth sores, extreme joint pain, and headaches—before she received her diagnosis, and the trials did not stop with identifying the disease. She describes her lupus as “out of control,” and was hospitalized twice during this time.