Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a chronic condition that has been considered a lifetime disorder for a long time. Over the past decades, advancements in the healthcare sector and improved public health measures have seen a drastic drop in SCD-related childhood mortality. That being said, this disease is still a significant cause for concern as it requires proper management and pain mitigation measures.
With marijuana taking the lead in therapeutic use for chronic diseases, there’s been a promise to end the frequent pain attacks, anxiety, and depression common with SCD patients. But how effective marijuana is, is often a debated question. Let’s find out more.
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What is Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle Cell Disease is a group of heredity disorders that affects red blood cells. There’s no proven cure, and the treatment options available focus on controlling symptoms such as severe pain, anxiety, and depression.
The condition causes the red blood cells to change shape – instead of being round and flexible; they become crescent moon-shape and rigid. The results are complications in the hemoglobin functioning, further affecting blood flow and oxygen circulation in the body.
Due to the reduced oxygen circulation in the body tissues, various organs such as the spleen, brain, heart, liver, lungs, eyes, bones, and skin become affected. Patients then begin experiencing sudden body pains, which can be severe and occur from time to time. Some of the common symptoms due to this disorder include;
- Frequent and severe pain, sometimes lasting up to a week.
- Slowed growth and delayed puberty in teens
- Yellowing of the skin
- Eyesight problems due to retina damage
- Recurring infections due to damaged spleen – a critical organ that fights infections
- Anxiety and depression – patients become anxious when the pain-attacks begin, and this can lead to depression
Over-the-counter medications have been prescribed to SCD patients for a long time, most of which aren’t quite efficient in managing all the symptoms. This has given way for marijuana as a better alternative with promising results.
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Available Treatment Options
Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant is the only treatment that’s currently available for SCD patients. While this treatment option is successful in most cases, it can cause early or late-life complications. These include a weakened immune system, resulting in further infection. Some patients may also experience a rare but severe condition called the graft-versus-host disease, which occurs when the transplanted stem cells attack the patient’s body. Generally, it’s hard to find an appropriate donor, which is an exact match to the patient. It’s estimated that one in every ten kids have a correct match donor for a successful transplant.
A doctor often prescribes medications for managing pain and fighting common infections (antibiotics) due to a weakened immune system. Certain medications, such as Hydroxyurea is effective in preventing sickle-shaped cells from multiplying. Again, they are associated with severe side effects, such as loss of hair and increased risk of infections.
Why Marijuana is a Better Alternative
From the many complications and treatments of sickle cell disease, marijuana is becoming an effective treatment for the chronic pain affecting SCD patients. Different strains of marijuana have been availed in the market, making it easy to identify the perfect type to help with a given health condition.
There are several benefits of using marijuana as an alternative to opioids, the latter which has been the primary treatment for acute pain. These opioids aren’t only becoming phased out, but have raised concerns among physicians due to the rise in opioid-related deaths. Some of the benefits of medical marijuana are;
- They have pain-relieving properties
- They have anti-inflammatory properties
- Can help enhance the patient’s mood
- Help boost appetite for low-appetite patients
- They are safe and an effective alternative to opiates.
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Commonly Used Marijuana Strains
There are several Medical Marijuana strains, and choosing the right type is key to alleviating symptoms for people with Sickle Cell Disease. We’ve highlighted the different Marijuana strains and their practical use.
- Mood Boosters – They help alleviate stress by boosting energy levels. Such strains are Harlequin, Northern Lights, Jack Herer, and Pineapple Express.
- Pain Relievers – Cannabis strain effective in relieving pain include: Sour Diesel, Blueberry, Granddaddy Purple, and Mendo Breath Strain.
- Relaxing the Body Muscles – Alleviates muscle pains. They include Mr. Nice, Strawberry Curve, and Willy’s Wonder.
Marijuana for sickle cell disease is growing in acceptance, and it has shown to be useful and versatile medicine for many. Before picking any of the strains for therapeutic use, it’s highly recommended to get a doctor’s prescription, preferably one with knowledge of medical marijuana use.
Regardless of the local laws governing medical marijuana, you’ll need to have a medical cannabis card before you can legally purchase marijuana products from a local dispenser. We try to make it easy for you to get a medical marijuana card.