Through a small academic setting survey, researchers at Yale University have discovered that sickle cell disease (SCD) patients are using marijuana to relieve symptoms related to the condition. How the substance is affecting these users and whether SCD should be added to the list of conditions that may be legally treated with medical cannabis is still in question. While medical marijuana in the US is legal to alleviate pain caused by several health conditions, only three states (Connecticut, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) include SCD as an approved condition. The Yale survey showed that SCD patients typically use marijuana as an alternative to opioids or supplement other pain relief treatments.
The survey included 58 SCD patients (age 21 and older), seen at an academic medical center, who were anonymously surveyed for their use of marijuana, cocaine, and phencyclidine (angel dust) for pain relief. Of the total study population, 42% reported using marijuana within the past two years; most patients said they used it for medicinal purposes to help with pain, anxiety, appetite, mood, and sleep. In addition, 79% of these patients reported taking less of their pain medications after marijuana use.