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Medical marijuana (cannabis) may offer a promising option for patients suffering from chronic itching, according to a new case study.
Chronic pruritus – known clinically as chronic pruritus – is characterized by an unrelenting, sometimes debilitating sensation of itching, often decreasing the quality of life for those who suffer from it.
Treating the condition has proven difficult because there are so few Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments.
“Chronic itching “It can be particularly challenging to treat, with off-label treatments often used,” says Shaun Quatra, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “With the increase in medical marijuana use and our knowledge of the role of the endocannabinoid system [a complex cell-signaling system that regulates a variety of functions in the body] In the case of chronic itching, we decided to try medical marijuana with a patient who had failed many treatments and had few options.”
Kwatra and colleagues examined an African American woman in her 60s who had a 10-year history of chronic pruritus. The patient initially arrived at the Johns Hopkins Center for Itching with complaints of severe itching on her arms, legs, and stomach. Skin examination revealed several raised, hyperpigmented skin lesions. The patient tried several treatments — including systemic treatments, centrally acting nasal sprays, steroid creams, and phototherapy — but they all failed.
Kwatra says it using medical marijuana – Either by smoking or in liquid form – it provided women with an almost immediate improvement.
“We had the patient rate her symptoms using a numerical rating scale, with 10 being the worst itchy and zero not itching at all,” Quatra says. “It started at 10 but dropped to 4 within 10 minutes after the initial administration of medical marijuana. With continued use of cannabis, the patient’s itch completely disappeared.”
Researchers believe that one of the active ingredients in medical marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol – better known by its acronym THC It binds to receptors in the brain that affect the nervous system. When this occurs, inflammation and nervous system activity decrease, which can also lead to decreased skin sensations such as itching.
Although no conclusive studies have yet been conducted to validate medical marijuana as an effective measure for relieving previously uncontrollable itch, Kwatra believes it requires more clinical trials.
“Controlled studies are needed to determine the doses, efficacy, and safety of medical marijuana in treating different subtypes of human itch, and once these studies are in place, we will better understand which patients are most likely to benefit from this treatment,” he says.