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Sickle Cell Anemia and Medical Marijuana

Cannabis can serve at least two important roles in safe, effective Sickle Cell pain management. It can provide relief from the pain itself, and it can help control the accompanying symptoms of an attack. Patients in Pennsylvania now have an option.

SCA Symptoms and Treatments

Sickle-cell anemia is one of the most common inherited disorders and is associated with both unpredictable recurrent acute pain and chronic pain. Morphine, an opioid, has been the drug of choice for the treatment of severe pain associated with SCA. Sickle-cell anemia affects patients by beginning as a tingling sensation, often in the hands or ankles, and becoming severe pain, spreading across the entire body. These painful episodes can last minutes or hours.

Patients with SCA have crescent shaped blood cells, compared to disc shaped blood cells in healthy individuals. These cells block blood flow, which causes pain, fatigue, and organ damage. The periods of intense pain are commonly known as a “sickle cell crisis.”

Cannabis has pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties that are particularly useful for SCA patients.


Cannabinoid receptor-specific mechanisms to alleviate pain in sickle cell anemia via inhibition of mast cell activation and neurogenic inflammation

National Institutes of Health

Cannabis use in sickle cell disease: a questionnaire study—British Journal of Haematology

British Journal of Haematology

The Analgesic Potential of Cannabinoids

National Institutes of Health

Study Says Medical Marijuana May Help Alleviate Pain in Sickle Cell Patients

Marijuana Policy Project

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