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CBD could replace opioids as treatment for arthritis – study

Arthritis patients reported significant improvements in symptoms after using CBD.



Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK.

Those behind a recent study say CBD improves symptoms in arthritis patients – and could be used as an alternative to opioid medication.

A study published earlier this month has found that arthritis patients reported significant improvements in symptoms after using CBD.

Patients were also able to reduce their use of prescription medications, according to data published in the Journal of Cannabis Research, suggesting CBD could be an effective alternative to opioids.

Researchers from the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University in New York and with the Banner University Medical Center in Arizona surveyed a sample of patients with either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis (RA). 

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common types of arthritis, according to the NHS, both cause symptoms such as painful joints and swelling and can make it difficult to go about day-to-day life.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting nearly nine million people. It most often develops in people in their mid-40s or older but can occur at any age.

Meanwhile, rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people in the UK. As an autoimmune condition, it occurs when the body’s immune system targets the affected joints.

CBD is increasingly being used by patients to help manage the symptoms, with arthritis one of the most common reasons why older generations are turning to cannabis-based therapies.

The majority of participants in the study (70 per cent) acknowledged having used CBD products for symptomatic relief.

Consistent with other studies, authors reported that many patients either reduced or eliminated their use of medications following their use of CBD products. 

Overall, patients saw a 44 per cent reduction in their pain score, with the osteoarthritis group seeing a greater percentage reduction compared to RA and other autoimmune arthritis conditions.

Most participants were also able to reduce their use of conventional medications including anti-inflammatories, paracetamol and opioids.

The results stated: “Most respondents using CBD for joint pain reported a reduction or cessation of other medications due to CBD use (60.5 percent), including a reduction in anti-inflammatories (31.1 percent), discontinuation of anti-inflammatories (17.8 percent), reduction in acetaminophen (18.2 percent), discontinuation of acetaminophen (17.8 percent), reduction in opioids (8.6 percent), and discontinuation of opioids (18.9 percent).”

Most participants taking CBD products acknowledged experiencing either mild or no adverse effects. 

The administration of a topical form of CBD has been previously shown to be effective in patients with thumb basal joint arthritis, according to placebo-controlled trial data. 

Arthritis patients who consume medical cannabis have similarly reported reductions in their opioid intake and improvements in their quality of life. 

The authors concluded: “In terms of the perceived effects of CBD on pain, physical function, and sleep quality, many patients using CBD reported symptomatic improvements. … These findings suggest that CBD could be an alternative to opioids for the treatment of arthritic pain.

“Clinicians and patients should be aware of the various alternative therapeutic options available to treat their symptoms of arthritis, especially in light of the increased accessibility to cannabidiol products.”


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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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