New case study looks at cannabis as a treatment for chronic itching

While “chronic itching” may sound like a minor annoyance to those who do not suffer from it, it can be debilitating, extremely frustrating, and affect the quality of life of those who suffer from it. New research now shows that cannabis can potentially help.

Clinically known as chronic pruritus, chronic pruritus is difficult to treat because there aren’t many FDA-approved therapies. Many treatment options only help relieve itching temporarily. A new study by Johns Hopkins Medicine now shows that medicinal cannabis could be a new and promising treatment for people with chronic itchy conditions.

The study, published April 9, 202 in JAMA Dermatology, examines exactly how medicinal cannabis can help.

“Chronic itching is a debilitating symptom associated with numerous dermatological, neurological and systemic diseases,” explains the abstract of the study. “It is often resistant to treatment and can seriously affect the quality of life. Currently, to our knowledge, there is a lack of US Food and Drug Administration-approved anti-itch therapies, so treatment can be difficult and relies on off-label therapeutics. In this article, we report a case of the successful use of medical marijuana to treat chronic itching. ”

“Chronic itching can be a particularly difficult condition because of the frequent use of off-label therapeutics,” said Dr. Shawn Kwatra, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “With the increasing use of medical marijuana and our understanding of the role of the endocannabinoid system [a complex cell-signaling system that regulates a variety of functions in the body] For chronic itching, we decided to try medical marijuana on a patient who had failed multiple therapies and had few options. “

Chronic itching and cannabis

To determine whether cannabis was helpful or not, the study looked at an African American woman in her sixties who suffered from chronic itching. She went to the Johns Hopkins Itch Center to complain of extreme problems with her arms, legs, and stomach. All of the scratches left her with lesions on her body that made her medical problems worse. Without luck, she was offered various treatment options, including systemic therapy, nasal spray, steroid cream, and phototherapy. So she was ready to try something new.

According to Kwatra, using medicinal cannabis in smoking or liquid form helped a lot with itching compared to previous treatments.

“We had the patient rate her symptoms using a numerical rating scale, with 10 being the worst itch and zero being no itching at all,” Kwatra said. “It started at 10am but dropped to 4 within 10 minutes of the first administration of the medical marijuana. With the continued consumption of cannabis, the patient’s itching disappeared completely. “

When it comes to why this works, the study’s backers believe that THC is actually what makes it successful. Because THC binds to brain receptors that affect the nervous system, inflammation and the nervous system actually decrease in activity, which helps with the skin sensations that bother the person with chronic itchiness.

Kwatra says that while more studies are needed to validate these results, he believes that more studies should be done as the results so far are more than promising and exciting.

“Controlled studies are needed to determine the dosage, effectiveness and safety of medical marijuana in the treatment of various human pruritus subtypes. Once these are conducted, we will better understand which patients are most likely to benefit from this therapy,” he said.

While more information is needed to see exactly how effective this treatment is, these results are very exciting for those who have problems with chronic itching.

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