Sickle Cell Anemia & CBD

While research investigating the effects of cannabidiol (CBD)on sickle cell anemia is limited, the studies that have been completed suggest that the compound may be able to help patients manage the pain associated with the disorder.

Sickle cell anemia, or sickle cell disease, is a group of inherited blood cell disorders that cause oxygen-carrying red blood cells to be abnormally shaped. Healthy red blood cells are disc shaped, allowing for flexibility and maneuverability through the blood vessels. In sickle cell disease, the red cells change into the shape of a crescent, or sickle. Sickle shaped red cells are not flexible and can stick to walls of blood vessels, causing blockages and stopping the flow of blood and the delivery of oxygen. A lack of tissue oxygenation can cause attacks of sudden, severe pain that are referred to as pain crises.

While sickle cell anemia is a life-long disease except for in the rare case a patient is able to have a hematopoietic stem cell transplant, treatments can reduce symptoms. Evidence suggests that CBD could potentially play a therapeutic role in symptom treatment for sickle cell anemia, specifically for relieving the unpredictable and severe bouts of pain and its related psychological effects.

Cannabinoids like CBD have long been shown in studies to be effective for pain management. The findings in studies that have examined the pain-relieving effects of the compounds specifically for sickle-cell anemia have also been promising. In a 2010 animal trial, the administration of cannabinoids effectively attenuated pain in mice expressing human sickle hemoglobin.

CBD may potentially be a safer pain-relieving option compared to opioids, which are commonly prescribedto sickle cell anemia patients for pain. Opioids commonly cause side effectslike sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. They also carry a high risk of addiction, abuse, and overdose due to respiratory depression. It’s not possible to fatally overdose on cannabinoids, and a recent study concluded that CBD has a “favorable safety profile.” A recent study found that most people who use medical cannabinoids prefer them to prescription opioids for pain relief.

CBD also possesses anti-inflammatory propertiesthat could potentially be beneficial for limiting the blood vessel blockage related to sickle cell anemia.

According to a 2005 questionnaireof sickle cell patients that use cannabinoids, 52 percent reportedly do so to reduce pain, and 39 percent do so to induce relaxation or relieve anxiety and depression.

Most research on the therapeutic application of CBD for sickle cell anemia is still needed, but so far findings are promising. The ability of sickle cell anemia patients to adequately manage pain has been found to have a huge impacton their quality of life and that of their families and caregivers.