Q&A: medical marijuana (cannabis) and lupus
Medical marijuana is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat lupus or any other condition.
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.
Read the Foundation’s statement.
Here’s what you need to know about medical marijuana.
What is medical marijuana?
The term “medical marijuana” refers to the use of the marijuana plant or herb, also known as cannabis, to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions. People have used the marijuana plant or its extracts for medical purposes for thousands of years. However, there hasn’t been enough research on how marijuana affects people to prove that medical marijuana is safe and effective.
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.
Products that contain natural or synthetic THC or CBD come in many forms. These include the dried plant (herb or flower), edibles (brownies, cookies, candy), drinkables (coffee, tea, lemonade, soda), oils, tinctures (which are taken orally), sprays, and topical creams and gels.
What is medical marijuana used for?
People have used medical marijuana for a variety of health conditions. But the FDA hasn’t approved medical marijuana as a safe and effective treatment for lupus – or for any medical condition or symptoms.
The FDA has approved one drug that contains CBD to treat seizures associated with two severe forms of childhood epilepsy. It has also approved three medications containing synthetic cannabinoids that may help treat cancer symptoms or the side effects of cancer therapies.
There is limited research on the uses of medical marijuana. That research suggests that medical marijuana may be helpful in these conditions and symptoms:
- pain and inflammation
- epileptic seizures
- diseases that affect the immune system, like HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis (MS)
- substance use disorders
- mental illnesses
Has medical marijuana been studied in people with lupus?
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.
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.
What should people with lupus do if they’re considering using medical marijuana?
If someone with lupus is thinking about trying any alternative treatments or products – including medical marijuana – they should always talk with their doctor first. Some of these products might not be safe, may interact with medications, or could make symptoms worse.