Is Marijuana an Effective Treatment for Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or Other Inflammatory Bowel Diseases?
Adi Lahat, MD, Doctor at the Institute of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases, Chaim Sheba Medical Center (Israel), et al., stated the following in their Jan. 2012 Digestion article, "Impact of Cannabis Treatment on the Quality of Life, Weight, and Clinical Disease Activity in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Patients: A Pilot Prospective Study":
"In the present preliminary prospective study, we have found that treatment with inhaled cannabis improves quality of life in patients with long-standing CD [Crohn's disease] and UC [ulcerative colitis]. Treatment was also shown to cause a statistically significant rise in patients’ weight after 3 months of treatment, and improvement in clinical disease activity index in patients with CD…
Moreover, the data demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in almost all aspects of patients' daily life. After 3 months' treatment with inhaled cannabis, patients stated an improvement in their health status, their ability to perform daily activities and their ability to maintain social life. Patients reported a statistically significant physical pain reduction during treatment, as well as improvement in mental distress…
None of our patients complained of any side effect that disturbed their working ability. In fact, as was shown in the results, there was a statistically significant improvement in patients' ability to work after treatment."
Jan. 2012 - Adi Lahat, MD
Bruce Buckner, a Crohn’s disease patient, wrote the following in the article "Crohn’s Disease” (accessed Mar. 1, 2013), available at rxmarijuana.com:
"I have several relatives with Crohn's Disease. Every one of them has had major surgery. Every one of them has had complications from the steroids and immune suppressors they have been prescribed… I am firmly convinced that I would be in the same condition as my relatives with Crohn's, if I hadn't used pot. The medical use of marijuana has saved my colon and my quality of life."
Mar. 1, 2013 - Bruce Buckner
Simon Lal, MD, PhD, Gastroenterologist at Spire Manchester Hospital and Spire Manchester Clinic Hale (England), et al. stated the following in their Oct. 23, 2011 European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology article, "Cannabis Use amongst Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease":
"Patients with UC [ulcerative colitis], in particular, reported using cannabis to improve diarrhoeal symptoms, and, again, this perceived benefit has received mechanistic support from studies that suggest that cannabinoids inhibit intestinal secretory responses... It is equally plausible to speculate that patients perceived benefit from using cannabis to reduce pain and/or diarrhoea because the drug has a direct anti-inflammatory effect on intestinal tissue… As in other diseases, a significant proportion of both UC and CD patients reported using cannabis to enhance appetite, and the drug's orexigenic properties are well-recognized, with many individuals commonly reporting appetite stimulation or 'the munchies' after use."
Oct. 23, 2011 - Simon Lal, PhD, MD
Timna Naftali, MD, Specialist in Gastroenterology at Meir Hospital and Kupat Holim Clinic (Israel), et al., stated the following in their Aug. 2011 Israel Medical Association Journal article titled "Treatment of Crohn’s Disease with Cannabis: An Observational Study":
"Of the 30 patients [with Crohn's Disease] 21 improved significantly after treatment with cannabis…
The mean number of bowel movements decreased from eight to five a day and the need for other drugs was significantly reduced… the number of patients requiring steroid treatment was reduced from 26 to 4. Fifteen of the patients had 19 surgeries during an average period of 9 years before cannabis use, but only 2 required surgery during an average period of 3 years of cannabis use…
The observed beneficial effect in this study may be due to the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis, but additional effects of cannabinoids may also play a role. Cannabinoids influence gastrointestinal motility and, in particular, have an anti-diarrheal effect..."
Aug. 2011 - Timna Naftali, MD
Jeff Hergenrather, MD, President of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, stated the following in the Autumn 2005 O'Shaughnessy's article titled "Cannabis Alleviates Symptoms of Crohn's Disease":
"[Crohn's] patients described marked improvements with the use of cannabis.
Beneficial effects were reported for appetite, pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, activity, and depression. Patients also reported that cannabis use resulted in weight gain, fewer stools per day and fewer flare-ups of less severity...
Cannabis-using Crohn's patients not only report significant relief of their symptoms, they are also able to reduce the amount of immunosuppressive medications that have been a mainstay of conventional treatment...
Crohn's disease is so debilitating and life-threatening and so difficult to manage with conventional medications it is very encouraging to find that cannabis is proving to be an effective treatment for it right now."
Medical Marijuana and Gastrointestinal Disorders
Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, including functional bowel diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and colitis, afflict more than one in five Americans, particularly women. While some GI disorders may be controlled by diet and pharmaceutical medications, others are poorly moderated by conventional treatments. Symptoms of GI disorders often include cramping, abdominal pain, inflammation of the lining of the large and/or small intestine, chronic diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and weight loss.
Although several anecdotal reports and a handful of case reports exist in the scientific literature supporting the use of cannabinoids to treat symptoms of GI disorders, virtually no clinical trial work has been performed in this area, aside from a 2007 clinical study assessing the impact of oral THC on colonic motility.
However, numerous preclinical studies demonstrate that activation of the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors exert biological functions on the gastrointestinal tract. Effects of their activation in animals include suppression of gastrointestinal motility, inhibition of intestinal secretion, reduced acid reflux, and protection from inflammation, as well as the promotion of epithelial wound healing in human tissue. As a result, many experts now believe that cannabinoids and/or modulation of the endogenous cannabinoid system represents a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of numerous GI disorders — including inflammatory bowel diseases, functional bowel diseases, gastro-oesophagael reflux conditions, secretory diarrhea, gastric ulcers, and colon cancer.