Sickle cell anemia is a genetic blood disorder that affects the shape of red blood cells and their ability to carry adequate oxygen to the rest of the body. With sickle cell anemia, red blood cells die easily, become moon shaped and get stuck in blood vessels instead of having a round shape, flowing freely and living long. As the name suggests, the disorder is characterized by anemia and severe fatigue. Another major symptom are episodes of pain, called pain crisis, lasting from hours to weeks intense enough to require a hospital stay. This pain
often starts from infancy and increases in severity as a patient ages, and can lead to recurring hospitalization,
reduced quality of life, depression, and disability. The episodes of pain can increase especially
during times of stress, infection, and dehydration.
Research suggests that medical marijuana may be a useful tool in managing pain while reducing the use of opioids frequently prescribed to patients with SCD. A recent survey taken by Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University found many sickle cell patients use marijuana for its medicinal benefits. A 2020 study done at the University of California published in Science Daily found that participants using cannabis reported less pain than participants that were not given cannabis. That study also found that cannabis appears to be safe and potentially effective in treating chronic pain. Another study published in the American Society of Hematology, also done in 2020, showed lower rates of hospital admissions with patients taking medical marijuana. These recent studies of the positive effects of medical marijuana on sickle cell patients is now gaining speed as patients report reduced pain.
Patients utilizing medical marijuana have also reported improved mood as well as a reduction in anxiety, commonly associated with sickle cell disease. At the right dose, medical marijuana has been shown to regulate the GABA and the glutamate neurotransmitters which affect serotonin levels thereby reducing anxiety. Sickle Cell Disease is a life-long battle.
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