Many people don’t know that cannabis (marijuana) has been shown to significantly help Crohn’s patients with painful inflammation, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Some Crohn’s patients who use marijuana have been able to avoid life-threatening surgery. The human body has a limited amount of bowel, and whenever a portion is removed, patients run the risk of developing surgical complications and short bowel syndrome which can lead to malnutrition. Patients with moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease are often forced to rely on medications that lower the body’s overactive immune system, leaving the patient at risk for developing possibly fatal fungal and bacterial infections. These drugs have also been linked to lymphoma, other fatal malignancies, and reactivation of latent tuberculosis (TB).
The legalization of medical marijuana is a hotly contested topic where each side is trying to drown the other out. Add a giant heap of politics to the mix and the intractable War on Drugs and the water grows murkier. We do know that regularly smoking marijuana can come with side effects, including bronchitis and respiratory problems. The consumption of marijuana can cause an increased heart rate (endangering those with cardiovascular problems), and paranoia and anxiety in some individuals. Regular use can lead to a general lessening of mental and athletic performance and ambition over time, especially if the drug is started when the patient is young. [Please see Marijuana's health effects: Memory problems, addiction for a brief overview.]
With these possible side effects in mind, many Crohn’s patients are still willing to try medical marijuana in return for a shot at a functioning life. If they could soothe their inflamed gut, leading to less time spent in the bathroom–bleeding and in pain–would the decrease in mental performance matter? When you’re on disability, at home, and isolated, your day-to-day performance is at a stand-still. What if medical marijuana is your ticket to a “normal” life but your government has taken that chance away from you?
What is your position on the legalization of medical marijuana? Do you live in a state where it’s legal? If you don’t, would you try it if it became legal in your state? What are your experiences with medical marijuana? Did it make a difference in your life?
Isr Med Assoc J. 2011 Aug;13(8):455-8.
Institute of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Meir Medical Center, Kfar Saba affiliated with Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Isr Med Assoc J. 2011 Sep;13(9):582. Yablekovitz, Doron [corrected to Yablecovitch, Doron].
The marijuana plant cannabis is known to have therapeutic effects, including improvement of inflammatory processes. However, no report of patients using cannabis for Crohn’s disease (CD) was ever published.
To describe the effects of cannabis use in patients suffering from CD.
In this retrospective observational study we examined disease activity, use of medication, need for surgery, and hospitalization before and after cannabis use in 30 patients (26 males) with CD. Disease activity was assessed by the Harvey Bradshaw index for Crohn’s disease.
Of the 30 patients 21 improved significantly after treatment with cannabis. The average Harvey Bradshaw index improved from 14 +/- 6.7 to 7 +/- 4.7 (P < 0.001). The need for other medication was significantly reduced. 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.
This is the first report of cannabis use in Crohn’s disease in humans. The results indicate that cannabis may have a positive effect on disease activity, as reflected by reduction in disease activity index and in the need for other drugs and surgery. Prospective placebo-controlled studies are warranted to fully evaluate the efficacy and side effects of cannabis in CD.
- PMID: 21910367 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]