Cannabinoids for Symptom Management in Patients with Kidney Failure Journal Articles uri icon

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  • People with kidney failure can experience a range of symptoms that lead to suffering and poor quality of life. Available therapies are limited, and evidence for new treatment options is sparse, often resulting in incomplete relief of symptoms. There is growing interest in the potential for cannabinoids, including cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol, to treat symptoms across a wide range of chronic diseases. As legal prohibitions are withdrawn or minimized in many jurisdictions, patients are increasingly able to access these agents. Cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are widely expressed in the body, including within the nervous and immune systems, and exogenous cannabinoids can have anxiolytic, antiemetic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects. Considering their known physiologic actions and successful studies in other patient populations, cannabinoids may be viewed as potential therapies for a variety of common symptoms affecting those with kidney failure, including pruritus, nausea, insomnia, chronic neuropathic pain, anorexia, and restless legs syndrome. In this review, we summarize the pharmacology and pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids, along with what is known about the use of cannabinoids for symptom relief in those with kidney disease, and the evidence available concerning their role in management of common symptoms. Presently, although these agents show varying efficacy with a reasonable safety profile in other patient populations, evidence-based prescribing of cannabinoids for people with symptomatic kidney failure is not possible. Given the symptom burden experienced by individuals with kidney failure, there is an urgent need to understand the tolerability and safety of these agents in this population, which must ultimately be followed by robust, randomized controlled trials to determine if they are effective for symptom relief.


  • Worth, Hayley
  • O’Hara, Daniel V
  • Agarwal, Neeru
  • Collister, David
  • Brennan, Frank
  • Smyth, Brendan

publication date

  • June 2022