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Can Cannabis Affect Your Kidney Health?

The popularity of cannabis is growing, and many consumers are asking whether it affects renal health.

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Human use of cannabis and cannabis products for medicinal purposes has been documented since 4000 B.C. in ancient Asia, according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Renal Physiology in 2017. However, federal marijuana prohibition in the United States began in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act and continued through the 1980s with the war on drugs. In the 1970s, the federal government classified cannabis as a Schedule I drug, the strictest category available.

According to the DEA, this class of drugs is highly addictive and has no legitimate medical use. Thankfully, there has been significant progress in clinical research about the effects of cannabis on organs, including the kidneys, since the 1930s. The primary research is aimed at determining whether or not cannabidiol (CBD) negatively impacts renal function. If cannabis use does have an effect on kidney function, how much can be safely consumed?

Health-conscious consumers may worry about the risks and benefits associated with cannabis consumption as use increases in popularity alongside widespread state decriminalization and potential federal legalization.

Scientific Research Shows No Harm to the Kidneys from Marijuana

The good news is that cannabis users are in for a treat. In 2017, a large study was published in The American Journal of Medicine that concluded moderate cannabis use by healthy adults had no effect on kidney function. In addition, this conclusion was reinforced by a comprehensive review published in 2020 in Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension. According to Science Daily, at least one other study suggests cannabis may provide a safer solution for kidneys than conventional analgesics or opioids for long-term pain management.

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Thirteen thousand nine hundred and ninety-five adults, ages 18 to 59, took part in the 2007-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that was analyzed in the 2017 study. A total of 6,483 participants said they had never tried marijuana, 5,499 said they had tried it at some point in the past, and 2,013 said they were current users. To determine whether or not participants were at risk for chronic kidney disease, the researchers measured their serum creatinine levels and eGFR. Researchers concluded there was no evidence linking current or past cannabis use to impaired kidney function.

Dr. Joshua L. Rein, a nephrologist at Mount Sinai, conducted an evaluation of 156 separate clinical studies and concluded that cannabis has no effect on kidney function in healthy individuals. This was published in the 2020 review. The results suggested that patients with advanced CKD or end-stage renal disease who used cannabis experienced fewer symptoms and used fewer opioids.

Possible Renal Protection from Cannabis

The first study discussed herein was conducted in 2017 and examined the effects of cannabis on the kidneys. Both CB1 and CB2 receptors are found in the kidneys. Researchers believe that using cannabis agonists to modulate CB receptors may protect against renal injury and offer effective therapies for patients with existing renal injury and disease because cannabis activates these receptors within the endocannabinoid (EC) system.

The findings of this study suggest that cannabis use may improve kidney health under certain conditions, and they suggest further investigation into the relationship between cannabis and kidney health. However, so long as researchers face a federal ban, that suggestion will be difficult to implement.

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European Journal of Pain article from 2022 suggests cannabis study “the Black Hole of shoddy research.

“Medical research into cannabis’ physiological effects has been hampered by the federal government’s continued prohibition of the drug.

A 2017 review by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that researchers’ ability to gather data is often limited or inaccurate. Research on cannabis and cannabinoids is hampered by a number of obstacles, including a lack of funding and restrictive regulations, as well as the stigma associated with using the drug.

Recent research, including that which has been cited here, nevertheless appears to confirm the idea that cannabis has no negative effects on kidney health and may even be useful in relieving some of the symptoms of kidney injury and disease.

What’s next, then, is this: Dispelling Some Common Health Myths

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