Prednisone side effects and how to taper off Prednisone, and does CBD help with Prednisone withdrawal
Stopping Prednisone can have withdrawal symptoms, but Prednisone is not addictive perse
Having taken Prednisone for 23 years, I call Prednisone an addictive drug. Even very addictive. If failing to go off a drug for so many years, and having withdrawal symptoms is not addiction, then I don't know what addiction is. But anyway...
By definition, Prednisone is not defined as an addictive drug. However, if taken for longer than a few days, it can cause withdrawal symptoms. This boils down to how hormones work - right by our kidneys, there are two small glands, the adrenal glands. These glands release hormones that essentially command various body parts on what to do. See these hormones like on/off switches.
Some Prednisone History
Prednisone was patented in 1954 and approved for medical use a year later. But its discovery goes long back to 1929 at Mayo Clinic. Initially, regular shipments of adrenal tissues were arriving from Chicago slaughterhouses and were used for research, until a chemist from Merck succeeded to create the adrenal steroid synthetically.
In 1948 the first patient was given this new compound, and experienced miraculous results, and so did 30 other patients in the following 7 months.
In 1949, the medication was named cortisone, an acronym for corticosterone and it was said that the first "miracle" patient was a woman, who received 2 dosages of the medication, and after only two days, jumped from her hospital bed and went on a 3 hour-long shopping spree. I'm sure that her husband was thrilled...
The term "steroids" is an abbreviation of corticosteroids and is not related at all to those steroids that some bodybuilders would take. Corticosteroids are man-made drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a hormone produced by our adrenal glands.
There are a few types of corticosteroids like cortisone, Prednisone, and methylprednisolone, with Prednisone being the most commonly used for rheumatic diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
How do steroids work
Simply put, steroids weaken the immune system and reduce its activity. In general, inflammation is a condition in which our white blood cells protect us from foreign infiltrators like bacteria and viruses. But in certain conditions, the immune system is somewhat confused and identifies some of our tissues as enemies, so it goes on an attack. When it works against our tissues, is can cause pain, swelling, redness, etc.
By affecting the activity of white blood cells and other chemicals involved in the inflammation process, steroids reduce the activity of the immune system and help keep tissue damage as minimal as possible.
Main Prednisone Side Effects
As mentioned, when people take Prednisone for a long period of time withdrawal symptoms can occur. But why is that?
Well, Prednisone imitates the naturally occurring hormone cortisol. And under some circumstances, like when the body is stressed, cortisol is naturally released. cortisol is like a protection mechanism and will do the following:
Increasing metabolism and the breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Increasing the metabolism means that we are hungrier, and need to eat more. This is a way our body prepares for what's to come under stress - needing more fuel (food) to act upon danger.
Suppressing our immune system. And why is that? since our immune system takes up a lot of our energy to maintain, when under stress, cortisol is instructing the body it's under threat and energy should be shifted from maintaining long-term defense (our immune system), to fighting mode. This reduces our ability to fight infection.
Increasing blood sugar. By breaking down our glycogen stores into smaller glucose molecules, cortisol causes glucose to enter our bloodstream, which causes the blood sugar spike. For various biological reasons, this will decrease muscle protein breakdown. Maybe another way for our body to defend itself and maintain energy.
What happens when you take Prednisone
Since Prednisone adds additional steroid hormones to the system, the body tries to balance cortisol levels and reduces its own natural cortisol production level, since excess cortisol level is harmful. Smart. But this is also right when someone taking Prednisone develops Prednisone dependency. So now, the manmade cortisol replaces natural production, and the body gets used to that lower production level.
At this point, when there's dependency, if someone stops taking Prednisone "cold turkey", their adrenal glands will not immediately up their cortisol levels production and then withdrawal symptoms start. Initially, the body is just not producing enough cortisol.
What Are Prednisone Withdrawal Symptoms
So, you are trying, probably for the 100th time, to wean off Prednisone. Good. But what can you expect if you've done it too quick, meaning, your body is still dependent and not producing enough of that magical hormone:
- joint pain
- general aches and pains
- general weakness and fatigue
- low appetite that can result in unintended weight loss
- And more...
How Long Prednisone Withdrawal Lasts
If done correctly, and you taper off Prednisone, and other steroids, slowly, your adrenal glands will gradually readjust to increasing their cortisol production. Depending on the dosage of Prednisone you were taking and how long you've taken it, the tapering process can last days to weeks. As a rule of thumb: Anyone who has taken Prednisone for 5 days and more, needs to go through a regulated tapering regime.
How to Taper Off Prednisone
Tapering off Prednisone should be done gradually and be guided and monitored by your doctor. If you are experiencing Prednisone withdrawal symptoms, you should consult your doctor and tweak tapering down dosages.
If you have taken a 20mg daily dose for the last year and when you lowered the dosage to 10mg per day and experienced Prednisone withdrawal symptoms, you should probably take a smaller step and go to 15mg first before you go down to 10mg. Each step should take no more than a few days.
Does CBD help withdrawal from Prednisone?
As always, the answer is - depends. And that's because one's reaction to CBD can differ from another. But, if you think about it, that is also the case with conventional medications. There's no real one-fits-all solution, but there are many researches that prove that CBD has some very strong anti-inflammatory qualities, especially when combined with the other cannabinoids and naturally occurring substances in the plant, an effect that is called - the entourage effect.
So in terms of helping with Prednisone withdrawal, if you look at conditions like autoimmune diseases, in which inflammation is involved, then CBD will help tackle the core problem - inflammation. And if inflammation is reduced in the body, then there's less, or no need at all to take Prednisone to weaken the immune system. It's as simple as that - treat the core problem and don't just cover it up by treating symptoms.
As mentioned, I've been Prednisone-free for the past 4 years, after 23 years of taking it and successfully done so with the help of Reclaim Lab's 2800 Broad Spectrum CBD-Rich oil. But always remember, this is not an overnight miracle, and can take time to work its way and accumulate in our bodies. To better understand how CBD and other cannabinoids work you can read here.