According to a recent review of cannabis in kidney disease symptom management conducted by University of British Columbia researchers, cannabis treatment has the potential to manage symptoms of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end stage renal disease (ESRD). The review highlighted the effectiveness of cannabis’s effectiveness in managing neuropathic pain that afflicts a majority of patients undergoing renal replacement therapy such as dialysis. The researchers found that using the lowest cannabis dosage possible was effective for pain management and offered a less addictive alternative to opioid pain management options.
Cannabinoid research has been hindered by historical stigma and illegal status, so there is minimal established research on cannabis’s adverse effects and benefits for patients with CKD. Mount Sinai Hospital Nephrologist Dr. Joshua Rein pointed out the importance of knowing the side effect profile of each route of administration in light of mixed evidence highlighting the benefits and potential adverse effects of cannabis. Some studies suggest that there may be an increased risk of heart attacks or stroke for some patients, while some studies may show an increased risk of lung infection. Overall, Dr. Rein recommends that CKD patients with pulmonary and respiratory diseases avoid smoking and instead seek out other options such as topical creams, tinctures, and edibles.
As cannabis treatments for those with CKD become more prevalent, this increased access will potentially reduce opioid dependence. Over 60% of dialysis patients have at least one opioid prescription despite mixed results regarding opioid’s effectiveness in pain reduction. Cannabis is reported to alleviate the pain, nausea and anxiety afflicting CKD patients.
Research on cannabinoids and renal function will continue to explore the roles that CB1 and CB2 receptors play in cannabinoid kidney treatments. Both receptors may be possible therapeutic targets managing renal deterioration due to diabetes. Future research will also explore the properties of different cannabinoids and most appropriate strains for CKD patients.