A 60-something woman with skin so itchy it caused her to scratch until she created lesions finally found relief from using cannabis.
According to a April 9 case report in the journal JAMA Dermatology, the woman experienced unrelenting itchy skin, called chronic pruritus, for 10 years.
She told the doctors who penned the report that her stomach, arms, and legs itched the most and she tried various treatments like steroid creams, nasal sprays, and phototherapy to treat her condition.
None of the treatments helped, so the woman kept scratching, leaving her skin with lesions, rough patches, and discoloration.
People with chronic pruritis throughout their bodies, rather than in just one location, tend to have underlying immune system problems that make their hormones or nervous systems go haywire, according to the Cleveland clinic. The result is an itching sensation on top of the skin that won’t go after six weeks.
That’s why the doctors on the woman’s case decided to prescribe her cannabis, in the form of flower or tincture with 18% THC, as an alternative treatment option.
Though conclusive studies on cannabis for pruritis have yet to exist, doctors believe the substance’s ability to affect brain receptors can lessen the itching sensation pruritis sufferers feel, the case report authors wrote.
THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, attaches itself to brain receptors that influence the nervous system. When they do, inflammation and nervous system activity decrease, which could also lead to a decrease in skin sensations like itchiness. That’s what doctors believe occurred in this woman’s case.
They instructed the woman to either smoke the flower or use the liquid tincture two nights each week. 10 minutes into the first time the woman tried the new treatment, she said her itching went from a 10, the highest rating possible, to a 4. The only side effect she experienced was slight grogginess, according to the report.
They followed up with her five months into the new regimen, and found the woman ranked her itching a 0. At follow-up appointments 16 and 20 months later, the woman still reported her cannabis routine was working and that she no longer used the medications on which she previously relied.