Medical Marijuana and Transplant Patients
Posted by Glenn Beierle on 02/22/2019 in Ailments and Conditions
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Certain conditions can result in the need for the patient to receive an organ transplant. When you need a transplant, you have to consider your eligibility, existing health issues, and recovery. Since some doctors consider medical marijuana a controversial topic, how does your patient status impact your experience? We can help you understand what to expect as a transplant patient who takes cannabis medicine.
Is Medical Marijuana Safe for Transplant Patients?
When you have an organ transplant, your doctor will give you immunosuppressants. As their name implies, these drugs suppress your immune system to increase your body’s chance of accepting the new organ. Your immune system attacks foreign objects, including organs that don’t belong to your body. If you have regular immune function, it will damage your new organ’s tissue. The immunosuppressants block its ability to attack the new organ so you can keep it in your body.
If you know about immunosuppressants for transplants, you may wonder if medical marijuana will affect this process. So far, experts don’t have enough information to understand its impact on transplants. However, the evidence we have shows promise. HS Rai and GS Winder conducted a review of the available research on the subject. Their information showed that transplant patients who used marijuana had similar survival rates to non-users. They urged doctors to take a holistic approach to patient candidacy and look at all aspects of their medical history.
Another study of more than 1000 patient records also supported the idea that cannabis has no effect on transplant outcomes. Subjects who used marijuana had similar results to non-users one year after transplant. The authors also concluded that cannabis use has little to no effect on transplant success.
Cannabis’ Effect on the Immune System
As a medical marijuana patient planning on a transplant, you may also want to know about your medicine’s immunosuppressive properties. Cannabis medicine relieves pain and inflammation because of its effect on the immune system. It activates receptors in your endocannabinoid system that regulate your immune response. When it interacts with your immune system, it tells it to stop creating inflammation. It also reduces the likelihood of it attacking tissue.
The evidence we have on medical marijuana doesn’t indicate that it can raise your susceptibility to illness. It can provide positive immunosuppressive effects while keeping you healthy. Cannabis medicine also has plenty of benefits over prescription immunosuppressants. Patients without insurance coverage may have medical marijuana available as a more affordable option. Medicinal cannabis also has safer side effects than prescriptions. Your marijuana medicine can also relieve additional symptoms of your condition.
How Can Cannabis Medicine Help Patients With Transplants?
According to studies on medical marijuana and transplants, it could help your body accept your new organ. Preliminary research on cannabis’ effect on transplants shows promise. With further research, we can learn more about the ways marijuana medicine can help.
A review from 2010 included suggestions for the role that medical marijuana could play in the transplant process. The endocannabinoid system has two receptors — CB1 and CB2. While CB1 receptors appear in the brain and nervous system, CB2 receptors impact immune cells. Marijuana affects your brain through the CB1 receptors. Since the authors aimed to find a solution that keeps the mind clear, they suggested medicine that activates both types of receptors. Activating the CB1 and CB2 receptors could result in a stronger effect on the immune system and a lower chance of psychotropic symptoms.
Research on mice suggests that THC may reduce the chance of organ rejection. The authors of the study transplanted incompatible skin on lab mice. When a living being receives an incompatible organ, their body has a high chance of rejecting it. Mice that had THC treatment had a longer delay until rejection than mice that received a placebo.
Medicinal Cannabis as a Post-Surgical Treatment
During surgical recovery, patients may have the option to use cannabis medicine to treat their symptoms. After surgery, the area of operation can feel sore as it heals. You can also feel tired from the procedure and your immunosuppressive treatment. Remember to ask your doctor about symptoms that can indicate organ rejection and let them know if you experience any. Medical marijuana can relieve the typical symptoms of transplant surgery recovery under a physician’s supervision.
Cannabis medicine can relieve the pain and fatigue associated with recovering from your transplant. Many types of medical marijuana excel at relieving pain. You can use a product recommended by your doctor to feel more comfortable during recovery. Select cannabis medications also provide energy when you feel fatigue. If you have a comorbid disorder, you may benefit from additional forms of relief. Your marijuana-trained doctor can help you understand your options before and after surgery.
If you want to use medicinal cannabis as a post-surgical treatment, remember to include everyone involved in your medical care in this decision. Make sure the doctor who recommends your marijuana and your surgeon communicate, as well. They each have unique areas of expertise that can inform the best approach to your surgery.
Can I Get Rejected for a Transplant If I Take Medical Marijuana?
Due to the stigma surrounding cannabis and a lack of research, you may face extra challenges trying to get a transplant if you are a marijuana patient. Some transplant programs cite a risk for fungal infection as a disqualification for medical marijuana patients. However, we do not have much information on this infection, and more research shows how cannabis medicine will help.
If you have difficulty justifying your qualification for a transplant procedure, you still have hope. A survey of heart and lung transplant providers across the world showed that 64.4 percent would accept medical cannabis patients. You can also get help from a marijuana-trained doctor found in our physician listings.
Find Out More About Medical Marijuana for Transplant Patients
A wide range of medical issues can lead to a patient needing a transplant. Our condition guides have information on hundreds of disorders and how you can use cannabis medicine to treat them. You can also visit our blog for more insights about medical marijuana for patients like you.