"Pot" Luck for Arthritis Sufferers

Published Online: Sunday, June 1, 2003
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There may be new hope for people afflicted with autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis: cannabis. Because cannabis appears to decrease inflammation in the body by suppressing certain parts of the immune system, researchers are hoping that the evidence from a new study will lead to new treatments.

Prior to this study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (April 16, 2003), researchers had hinted at immune system abnormalities among cannabis users?specifically, in the function of T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Whereas these cells help the body fight infection, no direct link with lowered immunity has been proven.

In this study, researchers took blood samples of 29 cannabis smokers?13 occasional users and 16 participants who smoked weekly or daily. They compared the results with those of 32 nonsmokers. Again, researchers discovered that cannabis smokers had fewer immune-enhancing natural killer cells and lymphocytes, and higher levels of an anti-inflammatory protein called interleukin-10, which may promote tumor growth. Because cannabis lowers levels of the inflammation-promoting protein interleukin-2 and raises levels of interleukin 10, these findings may be beneficial in the future treatment of autoimmune disorders.

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