Cannabis (marijuana, weed, pot, ganja, Mary Jane) is the most commonly used federally illicit drug in the United States. The present review provides an overview of cannabis and cannabinoids with relevance to the practice of nephrology so that clinicians can best take care of patients.
Cannabis may have medicinal benefits for treating symptoms of advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease including as a pain adjuvant potentially reducing the need for opioids. Cannabis does not seem to affect kidney function in healthy individuals. However, renal function should be closely monitored in those with CKD, the lowest effective dose should be used, and smoking should be avoided. Cannabis use may delay transplant candidate listing or contribute to ineligibility. Cannabidiol (CBD) has recently exploded in popularity. Although generally well tolerated, safe without significant side effects, and effective for a variety of neurological and psychiatric conditions, consumers have easy access to a wide range of unregulated CBD products, some with inaccurate labeling and false health claims. Importantly, CBD may raise tacrolimus levels.
Patients and healthcare professionals have little guidance or evidence regarding the impact of cannabis use on people with kidney disease. This knowledge gap will remain as long as federal regulations remain prohibitively restrictive towards prospective research.