Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The rare disease Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) affects the nature of your connective tissue, making your joints and skin stretch more than normal and weakening your tissue. When your skin and joints become extra flexible, they can become more susceptible to injury. The vascular subtype can put your vessels and organs in danger.
We don’t have specific research on EDS and cannabis, but the data we do have points to medical marijuana’s potential to reduce certain symptoms. EDS patients often receive medication for pain and blood pressure, which cannabis can also address.
People with EDS often have to take painkillers to lower the chronic pain they experience due to their disorder. Narang et al. evaluated the ability of dronabinol, a synthetic cannabinoid, to supplement opioid treatment. Finding a supplement to opioids allows patients to rely less on them, reducing the potential for addiction and other harmful side effects.
Their study had two phases. During the first phase, they gave patients dronabinol or a placebo and monitored symptoms every hour for eight hours. In the second phase, they used dronabinol as an add-on treatment for patients taking opioids.
In both phases, dronabinol greatly relieved the patients’ pain. They experienced less pain, found the discomfort they did experience to be less bothersome and felt more satisfied with their treatment. Since smaller and larger doses of dronabinol had similar effects, the subjects could take a smaller dose to minimize side effects.
In some cases, patients with EDS must take blood pressure medicine to take pressure off their weaker blood vessels. We’ve looked into the possibility of using cannabis to lower blood pressure as far back as 1980, when Merritt et al. conducted such a study. They wanted to see how smoking marijuana impacted glaucoma patients’ eye and blood pressure.
The researchers worked with 18 individuals who had heterogenous glaucoma and monitored their heart rates, blood pressure and eye pressure at various intervals before and after smoking cannabis. During the study, they also asked patients about their mental state to gauge psychoactive effects.
Around 60 to 90 minutes after the patients had cannabis, they experienced lowered blood pressure. The marijuana also reduced the pressure in their eyes. The team speculated there could be a link between these two trends. After reviewing their results, they concluded that more research on the subject was warranted.
Research on cannabis and blood pressure has continued into this century. Between the Merritt study and Gorelick et al.’s 2006 paper, animal studies suggested a link between the CB1 cannabinoid receptor and blood pressure. So, Gorelick et al. wanted to examine this relationship in the human body.
So, they gave 63 men who regularly smoked marijuana either a placebo or rimonabant. Rimonabant is a CB1 antagonist, meaning it blocks the receptor. The subjects then smoked the cannabis or placebo two and six hours after the dose. For 90 minutes after smoking, the team monitored the patients’ blood pressure and other symptoms.
When subjects took rimonabant, cannabis didn’t affect their blood pressure. Only patients who took the placebo experienced lower blood pressure when they smoked marijuana. Participants who did have a lower blood pressure had higher concentrations of THC in their plasma than those who didn’t. These results indicated that THC and the CB1 receptor both have an impact on blood pressure.
Getting an effective remedy is easier than you think. Learn more about EDS and medical marijuana in our condition guide. Knowing about your disorder and its response to cannabis medicine can help you decide on possible treatment goals. Then, contact a cannabis-friendly physician near you to get an official medical marijuana recommendation.