Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder. It primarily affects African Americans in the United States, but other racial groups can inherit the condition, as well. The disease causes red blood cells to become sticky and misshaped, specifically into a sickle or crescent shape. The main outcome is that insufficient oxygen is transported to different parts of the body, since this is the responsibility of the red blood cells. Blood vessels can also become congested when the misshapen cells block them.
Although some patients undergo therapy or use medications to help manage their symptoms, they don’t always work, leaving patients feeling demoralized. Medical marijuana could be an effective form of treatment for sickle cell anemia-related mood disorders because the cannabinoids present in the plant are well-documented as a useful way to treat mood-related issues. But, which strains are best?
Although they don’t receive much attention, mood disorders are prevalent side effects for patients with sickle cell anemia. Depression, anxiety and other psychiatric issues can develop because of the nature of the disease and the social, economic and healthcare disparities experienced by those with the disease.
Patients with sickle cell anemia report the development of mood disorders for many different reasons, such as:
Even children with sickle cell anemia experience symptoms that, if left untreated, could lead to more serious mood disorders, including:
For centuries, medical marijuana has been used to treat mood disorders like depression. The chemical compounds that make up cannabis, called cannabinoids, provide many health and wellness benefits by interacting with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). ECS receptors are found throughout our body, including in our brain.
When the cannabinoids bind to the ECS receptors in our brain, they can positively affect our mood. CBD and THC are the two compounds that offer the greatest benefits.
For patients with depression, using cannabis high in THC can lift and lighten their mood, giving them feelings of peace and euphoria. This is because THC produces chemicals in the brain known for their antidepressant effects, including serotonin and anandamide.
Patients with anxiety, on the other hand, are better treated with cannabis low in THC and high in CBD. This is because THC is also most commonly associated with the “high” you experience from smoking pot, while CBD is non-psychoactive. Conversely, CBD has been shown to help patients feel calm and even eliminate anxiety because of its ability to affect mood activity in the brain.
If you’re a patient with sickle cell anemia looking for the best medical marijuana strain for your mood disorder, it really depends on whether you’re treating anxiety or depression.
When looking for strains to treat depression, patients should opt for those with a high THC content or equal levels of THC and CBD, such as:
The strains that treat anxiety usually have a high CBD content. Indica strains are also good since they tend to relax the mind instead of supercharging it. Some of the best strains for anxiety include:
Not all strains are appropriate for all patients — that’s why you should only use cannabis under the direct supervision of a healthcare professional. They can offer strain recommendations and monitor your dosage.
You can also speak to the budtenders at a local medical marijuana dispensary for more information about strain availability. But first, you must start the process to join your state’s medical marijuana program by meeting with a qualified marijuana doctor today.