Weed Could Treat Osteoarthritis, Says New Study: CB2 Receptor Helps Joint Pain And Damage

Contrary to popular belief, people who use medical marijuana aren't just trying to have a good time. And now, there's proof: over one-third of Canadians who use medical marijuana do so to ease arthritic pain, and a newly-published study helps reveal how it can help. Researchers in the U.K. and Canada have concluded that the activation of CB2, a brain receptor that’s triggered by certain chemicals in weed, can decrease both pain from osteoarthritis and the actual joint damage itself. While marijuana has previously been shown to ease chronic pain in general, this is the first study specifically linking CB2 activation to changes in the spinal cord.

The study, published in PLOS One journal in November, indicated that activating the CB2 receptor in both rats and humans with osteoporosis decreased inflammation in the spinal cord. What’s more, the subjects didn’t develop tolerance for the effect over time, suggesting that stimulation CB2 could potentially be a long-term treatment for patients with osteoarthritis.

The researchers activated CB2 with a chemical called JWH133 which, unlike THC, doesn’t have any psychoactive effects. This implies that, while smoking weed may well be a good treatment for osteoarthritic pain, there could hypethetically be ways to treat the condition with marijuana derivatives that don’t get patients high. This would be particularly advantageous for seniors susceptible to the impaired motor functions that, as has been well-documented, often come with smoking straight weed.

The research supports the perpetually growing body of evidence that marijuana and its derivatives are effective pain relievers. In August, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, a longtime opponent of medical marijuana, abruptly changed positions on the issue, admitting that he hadn’t researched the topic well enough in the past. He concluded that cannabis is an effective medication for pain relief after all.

A 2012 study showed that Sativex, which is essentially THC in tincture form, was effective in both reducing pain and improving sleep quality for people with rheumatoid arthritis.