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Medical cannabis use is on the rise. There’s growing evidence that it may effectively treat various medical conditions, including psoriasis.

People already use cannabis to treat conditions like Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, and nausea from chemotherapy.

The evidence is mounting that cannabis may also be effective in treating everything from multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease to schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But can cannabis be used to treat psoriasis? Here, we examine the evidence.

We avoid the word “marijuana” because it has racist roots and connotations. The word “marijuana” first became popular in the United States during the cannabis prohibition movement, as it appealed to the widespread xenophobia against Mexican immigrants at the time.

Considering that members of historically marginalized races are more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts, it’s especially important that we’re mindful of the language we use and how it can add to, or stem from, racist stereotypes.

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Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes the rapid buildup of skin cells. The new skin cells are produced so quickly that they reach the surface of the skin before they mature. This immature buildup on the surface of the skin forms itchy raised patches of scales.

Psoriasis symptoms present differently based on skin type.

On lighter skin tones, psoriatic scales are typically whitish-silver and develop in thick, red patches. On medium skin tones, they can appear salmon-colored with silvery-white scales. On darker skin tones, psoriasis can look more violet or dark brown with gray scales.

Sometimes, these patches will crack and bleed. Parts of your body may also become inflamed, and you may have redness, swelling, and discomfort.

According to one study, around 7.5 million American adults 20 years or older have psoriasis — a 3% prevalence rate (occurrence of a condition).

By race and ethnicity, the prevalence rates are:

  • 3.6% of white people
  • 3.1% of non-Hispanic, including multiracial people
  • 2.5% of Asian people
  • 1.9% of Hispanics, including Mexican American people
  • 1.5% of Black people

About 30% of people who have psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. This condition causes painful swelling and stiffness of the joints. If left untreated, it can also lead to permanent joint damage.

Pain, fatigue, and sleeplessness often occur with psoriasis. Psoriasis can also take a profound toll on your mental health.

The National Psoriasis Foundation notes that people with psoriasis are at an increased risk for depression and anxiety.

According to research, as many as 84% of people living with psoriasis are also living with a psychiatric disorder.

Having psoriasis can cause embarrassment or shame, leading to becoming isolated and more vulnerable to harm. This, in turn, can contribute to the development of anxiety and depression.

In particular, about 20-30% of people living with psoriasis also have depression, though some studies indicate as high as 62%. Similarly, people living with psoriasis vulgaris also have a higher risk of developing anxiety.

Psoriasis isn’t curable and can be difficult to control.

Although there are a variety of medications and light therapies for treating the disease, some have serious side effects, and others lose their effectiveness when your body builds up resistance to them.

Given psoriasis’s physical and emotional burden, new treatment options are needed. Cannabis is one of the treatment possibilities being explored. Research into the effectiveness of cannabis addresses different aspects of the disease.

Slowing cell growth

Some studies suggest cannabis may be useful in slowing the rapid growth of keratinocytes. These are the immature skin cells found in people with psoriasis.

Research suggests that cannabinoids and their receptors may help control and limit the production of immature skin cells.

Researchers add that cannabis may be useful in treating several conditions involving keratinocytes, including psoriasis and wound healing.

Controlling pain

Many people use cannabis to control pain. Cannabis may be more effective than opioids in controlling acute and neuropathic pain. According to an article in Current Rheumatology, it may also be useful in reducing chronic pain.

A 2015 research article also suggests that cannabis may effectively treat pain.

Regulating the immune system

Although more research is needed, some studies indicate that cannabis reduces the severity of inflammation associated with some conditions, including autoimmune disorders like psoriasis. Research indicates that cannabis can suppress the immune system.

A lot of research has focused on forms of cannabis that are taken by mouth. Cannabis is also available as an oil.

Some people use this oil topically to treat psoriasis, claiming that it controls the speed of skin cell production and reduces inflammation. More research is needed to support these claims.

Treatment of stress

Psoriasis and stress go hand in hand, and THC has been shown to relieve stress. But researchers note that while low doses of THC can produce stress-relieving effects, higher doses may negatively affect mood.

Cannabinoids hold the key

Cannabinoids are active chemicals found in cannabis plants. Your body makes cannabinoids, too. These chemical messengers are called “endocannabinoids.” They play a role in some functions in your body, including:

  • inflammation
  • immunity
  • appetite
  • the pressure in your eye
  • mood
  • reproduction

Cannabis holds promise for treating the symptoms of psoriasis. It’s well-established that cannabis can be useful in controlling pain. But more research is needed to determine if it’s safe and effective.

The manner in which cannabis is used also needs more testing. Cannabis can be used in a variety of forms, including:

  • pills
  • inhalants
  • vaporizers
  • tinctures

Cannabis hasn’t been better studied because it’s a Schedule I substance under the United States Controlled Substances Act.

Schedule I substances are considered to have a high potential for abuse, have no accepted medical use, and may not be safe for use under medical supervision.

These restrictions have posed a significant obstacle to cannabis research. Still, state laws allowing the use of medical cannabis have encouraged more research and efforts to deregulate the drug.

Cannabis can’t be prescribed under federal law, but doctors may recommend or provide a referral for its use in place of a prescription.

This is legal in the following parts of the United States. Remember that the form of cannabis allowed varies by location, and the laws may change with time.

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Update by Alyssa Kiefer

To be certain about the law regarding cannabis in your state, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) website or your state’s official website.

Whether or not you should consider cannabis for psoriasis treatment depends on where you live. Some parts of the United States allow the use of cannabis to treat psoriasis Others allow people to use it to relieve pain.

Talk with your doctor to see if cannabis could be beneficial for treating your psoriasis, given your overall health and state laws.