Over 200 nephrologists completed a recent survey regarding the use of cannabis to treat Chronic Kidney Disease symptoms. Only ten percent prescribed cannabis to treat symptoms, with the overwhelming majority (95%) of those citing chronic pain syndromes as the reason for doing so. More than any other countries surveyed, Canadian nephrologists suggest cannabis could play an impactful role in symptom management for chronic kidney disease.
Many international medical students and nephrologists reported feeling unprepared to support using medical cannabis for pain treatment. Comfort level with medical cannabis seemed to be a significant impediment. Given the limited options for chronic kidney disease symptom control, the survey shows potential for large-scale changes for prescribing medical marijuana. Cannabis is showing promise for treating or preventing other ailments.
Fifty-nine percent of nephrologists surveyed responded that they were not comfortable with their knowledge of medical cannabis literature, and ninety-one percent said that additional studies of the safety and efficacy of cannabis would “likely influence their prescribing habits.”
Fifty-five percent of respondents responded that “changes in the legality of cannabis did not influence their decision to prescribe cannabis.” Canadian nephrologists showed broad support “for encouraging patients to enroll in efficacy/safety studies of cannabis in the CKD population.”
In 2019, a published study review in the Canadian Journal of Kidney Health and Disease examined non-synthetic cannabinoids to treat common symptoms in advanced stages of chronic kidney disease – anorexia, chronic pain, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, and pruritus (itchy skin). The conclusion was that non-synthetic cannabinoids for symptom management are limited to treating chronic neuropathic pain.
Chronic Kidney Disease has no cure and involves a gradual loss of kidney function. According to the Mayo Clinic, the disease can cause “dangerous fluid levels, electrolytes, and wastes to build up in your body.” Current chronic kidney disease treatment strategies focus on slowing the progress of kidney damage, typically by controlling the cause of the disease.
Using cannabis like burning some joint papers or hitting the bong to treat symptoms of chronic kidney disease and other illnesses holds promise. Still, more knowledge and acceptance among treating doctors are needed to increase its implementation.