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abstracts & posters

Use of Marijuana in Patients with Sickle Cell Disease Increased the Frequency of Hospitalization for Acute Painful Vaso-Occlusive Crises

key information

source: American Society of Hematology

year: 2016

authors: Samir K. Ballas


Introduction: Recently, there has been general interest in using marijuana as an analgesic for various types of pain. Cannabis is known to relieve severe nausea and vomiting. Anecdotally, medical marijuana has analgesic effects in patients with chronic and neuropathic pain other than sickle cell pain, decreases the frequency of migraine headache, has anti-spastic effect in multiple sclerosis, and may relieve some of the signs and symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Crohn’s disease. Its role in epilepsy is controversial. On the negative side long-term cannabis use is associated with periodontal disease, maternal marijuana use at 20 weeks gestation was strongly associated with spontaneous pre-term birth independent of maternal cigarette smoking and illegal synthetic cannabinoids (K2/spice) were associated with catatonia and myocardial infarction in adolescents. Studies in the transgenic sickle cell mouse showed that cannabinoid receptor-specific mechanisms ameliorate pain via inhibition of mast cell activation and neurogenic inflammation. A questionnaire study from the United Kingdom showed that 36% of the patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) have used cannabis in the previous 12 months to relieve symptoms. Another longitudinal questionnaire study in Jamaica found that marijuana was not related to the clinical severity of SCD. The objective of this study is to report the epidemiological and clinical features of the patients with SCD who were found to be taking marijuana by using random urine drug screening from 1994 to 2009. The frequency of vaso-occlusive crises (VOCs) in these patients was compared to patents with SCD whose urine drug screening showed no marijuana. The terms marijuana and cannabinoid will be used interchangeably in this Abstract.

Patients & Methods: A total of 270 random urine drug screen tests were done on 72 patients representing 10% of our patients with SCD during the period of the study. Written consent was obtained from the patients for enrollment in the study that was approved by the IRB. Types of SCD were determined by routine lab tests. Urine samples, collected randomly, were analyzed for the presence of amphetamine, benzodiazepines, opiates, barbiturate, cannabinoid, propoxyphene, methadone and phencyclidine. Samples were classified as either positive or negative for cannabinoid. Statistical analysis included the two-tailed student’s t, Fisher exact and the Chi Square tests.

organization: Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia

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