Medical marijuana is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat lupus or any other condition.
Until more research is done, we don’t know if medical marijuana can help people with lupus. We don’t know whether it can provide relief from lupus symptoms, if it interacts with drugs used to treat these symptoms, or whether it can lessen the side effects of those drugs.
Here’s what you need to know about medical marijuana.
There’s a great deal that we don’t know about whether medical marijuana can help people with lupus. Research is just starting to study how it might help manage or treat lupus.
Marijuana contains active chemicals called “cannabinoids.” The main cannabinoid is commonly known as THC, which gives users a “high.” Another often used cannabinoid is known as CBD, which doesn’t produce a high and may relieve pain and inflammation. There are also hundreds of synthetic cannabinoid chemicals – chemicals that are created in the laboratory that mimic natural cannabinoids.
There is only one currently ongoing study of medical marijuana for lupus. That study is looking at whether a potential new drug made from a synthetic cannabinoid can treat joint pain and swelling (inflammation) in people with lupus. The drug, which is called JBT-101 (lenabasum), doesn’t produce a high. Several smaller studies of other conditions involving the immune system have reported positive results with lenabasum.
There are a number of ways ingest the drug, but 71% of users reported smoking it. 29% reported using non-smoking methods such as eating it.
There is limited research into the value of using marijuana specifically for lupus. However, there is a growing body of work that is exploring how cannabis and cannabinoids impact the immune system generically.
So, are people with lupus using the drug?
Just reading the internet, blogs & support forums, it can seem like a lot of people are using marijuana to battle symptoms of lupus.
This focus on the immune system is important as a complete understanding of the immune response will help people develop drugs to decrease inflammation. Unnecessary inflammation causes damage in a number of autoimmune diseases beyond lupus including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), multiple sclerosis (MS) and many more.
Despite these changes, the long prohibition on marijuana has had an impact on research. There have been few studies evaluating the efficacy and safety of marijuana – though the existing research and anecdotal evidence suggest there may be value for people living with autoimmune diseases.