Yo, what’s good? My name is Dan and I’m here to talk about sickle cell anemia and how cannabis can help manage the symptoms. First things first, sickle cell anemia is caused by a genetic mutation that messes with the protein haemoglobin in your red blood cells. This causes them to change shape into a “sickle” or crescent shape which leads to all sorts of complications like pain, swelling, and infections. It’s a tough condition to deal with, but some people have reported benefits from using cannabis.
Medical research on cannabis has been ramping up lately, which is dope because it used to be seen as this evil drug that could only cause harm. But now that it’s becoming more accepted, scientists are able to explore it in more detail and figure out how it can be used to help people.
So what does cannabis have to do with sickle cell anemia? Well, researchers are looking into it as a potential treatment option for managing the symptoms. Cannabis interacts with a regulatory system in your body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is made up of receptor sites, signalling molecules, and enzymes. When you consume cannabis, the cannabinoids in it interact with this system and help bring balance to your body – aka homeostasis.
But cannabis isn’t just about getting high. There are other compounds in the plant like terpenes and flavonoids that researchers are exploring. Some of these compounds even work together with cannabinoids to produce more effective outcomes.
Let’s talk about the symptoms of sickle cell anemia. One of the biggest ones is pain – periods of pain known as “pain crises” are a central symptom of the condition. The unusual shape of the cells causes them to clog blood vessels which can cause severe chronic pain requiring hospital stays. But studies have shown that using cannabis can help relieve pain related to sickle cell disease. In fact, a study surveyed sickle cell patients and found that 42% of them had used cannabis in the past two years to help with pain, mood, and sleep. Many also reported that using cannabis enabled them to reduce their intake of pain medication.
Cannabis can also help with mood. THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, causes brain cells to start pumping out more dopamine which can elevate your mood in the short term. But long-term use of THC can actually make you feel demotivated and not everyone responds well to it. That’s where CBD comes in – it’s a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis that binds to serotonin receptors and increases levels of anandamide aka the “bliss molecule”. This can help increase your mood in a more subtle but potentially more meaningful way.
Sickle cell anemia can leave you exposed to an increased risk of infections due to damage caused to the spleen. Research shows that the ECS plays an important role in immunity, and receptors occur on a variety of immune cells. Future clinical trials are needed to uncover how cannabis components might improve immunity in sickle cell anemia patients specifically.
Now, how do you consume cannabis? There are a few ways – vaping uses relatively low heat to evaporate cannabinoids and terpenes, avoiding combustion. This route offers a rapid onset of effects as components quickly diffuse through the alveoli of the lungs into the bloodstream. Some people prefer smoking, but that exposes your lungs to high levels of carcinogens and toxins. Other consumption methods like edibles and concentrates have yet to be studied in sickle cell anemia patients.
Overall, cannabis may be a natural approach to managing sickle cell anemia symptoms but more research is needed. Hopefully, as more clinical trials are conducted we can figure out how to use cannabis as a treatment option for this challenging condition. Stay chill, y’all.