Crohn’s and Cannabis: Learn How Crohn’s Disease is Treatabe with Medical Marijuana
Crohn’s Disease causes inflammation of the digestive system. It is one of a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel disease. Crohn’s can affect any area from the mouth to the anus. It often affects the lower part of the small intestine called the ileum. Crohn’s disease is caused by a combination of environmental, immune and bacterial factors in genetically susceptible individuals.
There is a wealth of new scientific understanding regarding how medical marijuana or cannabis can be beneficial for treating Crohn’s Disease.
Crohn’s disease may be due to an abnormal reaction by the body’s immune system. It also seems to run in some families. It most commonly starts between the ages of 13 and 30.
The most common symptoms are pain in the abdomen and diarrhea. Other symptoms include
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Weight loss
Your doctor will diagnose Crohn’s disease with a physical exam, lab tests, imaging tests, and a colonoscopy.
Crohn’s can cause complications, such as intestinal blockages, ulcers in the intestine, and problems getting enough nutrients. People with Crohn’s can also have joint pain and skin problems. Children with the disease may have growth problems.
There is no cure for Crohn’s. Treatment can help control symptoms, and may include medicines, nutrition supplements, and/or surgery. Some people have long periods of remission, when they are free of symptoms.
Marijuana Helps Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two main types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are a challenge to treat. Among the potential treatment options is marijuana, and several recent studies indicate that this unconventional option offers some significant benefits.
How we treat inflammatory bowel disease
The current treatment options for the more than 1.5 million Americans and millions more who suffer with inflammatory bowel disease include dietary measures (e.g., olive oil extract, vitamin D, probiotics) and a variety of drugs. These treatments attempt to alleviate the diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever, weight loss and abdominal pain and cramps associated with the disease.
The more common treatments for IBD include anti-inflammatory drugs, such as sulfasalazine, corticosteroids (which have significant side effects and are only suitable for short-term use), mesalamine (e.g., Apriso, Dipentum, Lialda), immune system suppressors (e.g., azathioprine, cyclosporine, infliximab, adalimumab, certolizumab, methotrexate), which can have significant side effects, and antibiotics, which are of questionable benefit. Beyond these drugs are others that can address specific symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, or pain, or address nutritional deficiencies (e.g., iron, calcium, vitamin B12). Surgery is a last resort.
Inflammatory bowel disease can be life-threatening and thus deserves focused attention. Ulcerative colitis typically affects only the large intestine (colon) and rectum and usually develops gradually over time. Crohn’s disease can occur anywhere along the intestinal tract and can infiltrate the tissues.
Studies of marijuana and IBD
A review of investigations into the use of cannabis for inflammatory bowel disease reveals that its use “in the clinical therapy has been strongly limited by their psychotropic effects.” The authors of this recent Italian study, however, point out that cannabidiol (a non-psychoactive and healthful ingredient in marijuana), “is a very promising compound” because it does not have any psychotropic effects, and that it is a “potential candidate for the development of a new class of anti-IBD drugs.”
A 2012 study published in Digestion noted that people who had had IBD for a long time responded favorably to marijuana, experiencing an increase in appetite, weight gain, better social functioning, improved ability to work, and an improvement in depression and pain after three months of treatment with inhaled cannabis. Earlier studies have also indicated positive effects.
For example, an Israeli study was the first to show that use of marijuana in people with Crohn’s disease could provide a positive result. Twenty-one of the 30 patients in the study experienced significantly improvement after using marijuana, and the need for drugs was significantly reduced as well.
In yet another study, Canadian researchers evaluated 100 people with ulcerative colitis and 191 with Crohn’s disease and their use of marijuana. The investigators found a significant level of marijuana use among people with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (about 50% in each group). People who had a history of surgery for IBD were more likely to use marijuana (60%) than were those who had not undergone surgery (32%).
The bottom line appears to be that use of marijuana among people who have inflammatory bowel disease may be beneficial. If you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you should ask your healthcare provider or another healthcare professional about the possibility of using marijuana for symptom relief.
Does Medical Marijuana Cure Crohn’s Disease? Study Finds Some Patients Had Increased Appetite, Sleep Function, No Side Effects
A new study suggests that the regular use of medical marijuana may achieve the “complete remission” of Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder.
The study, published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, attempted to determine the effect that regular medical marijuana use had on patients with Crohn’s disease, Medical Daily reports. An examination of 21 subjects revealed that medical marijuana effectively treated symptoms in many patients, while achieving “complete remission” in others.
“The marijuana plant Cannabis sativa has been reported to produce beneficial effects for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, but this has not been investigated in controlled trials,” researchers at Meir Medical Center in Israel stated. “We performed a prospective trial to determine whether cannabis can induce remission in patients with Crohn’s disease.”
During the study, 11 subjects were given two “joints” of medical marijuana each day for two months, while the remaining 10 subjects constituted a placebo group. Of the 11 Crohn’s disease patients who used medical marijuana, five experienced total remission of their symptoms, increased appetite, and improved sleep patterns, Medical Daily reports. Furthermore, 10 of the 11 patients experienced some form of “clinical response” to the medical marijuana usage.
Ultimately, the study determined that “THC-rich cannabis produced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits to 11 patients with active Crohn’s disease, compared with placebo, without side effects,” Medical Daily reports. However, researches noted that “primary end point of the study (induction of remission) was not achieved,” despite the five patients who experienced that effect. Crohn’s disease has no cure, but is often treated with dietary changes, corticosteroids, or, in extreme cases, invasive surgery.
Although it is often identified as an autoimmune disorder, Crohn’s disease is actually an immune deficiency state arising from various environmental and genetic factors, Medical Daily reports. The chronic inflammatory illness attacks the subject’s gastrointestinal tract, resulting in symptoms of “mild abdominal pain to more severe cases of bloody diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weight loss and fevers.”
According to Medical Daily, patients with severe instances of Crohn’s disease can defecate as many as 20 times a day. Although the illness affects 400,000 to 600,000 people in North America, many people aren’t diagnosed until years after the disease manifests.
Cannabis finds its way into treatment of Crohn’s disease.
- Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.
In ancient medicine, cannabis has been widely used to cure disturbances and inflammation of the bowel. A recent clinical study now shows that the medicinal plant Cannabis sativa has lived up to expectations and proved to be highly efficient in cases of inflammatory bowel diseases. In a prospective placebo-controlled study, it has been shown what has been largely anticipated from anecdotal reports, i.e. that cannabis produces significant clinical benefits in patients with Crohn’s disease. The mechanisms involved are not yet clear but most likely include peripheral actions on cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2, and may also include central actions.
Endocannabinoids and the gastrointestinal tract.
- Department of Physiological Chemistry, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, 55099 Mainz, Germany
In the past centuries, different preparations of marijuana have been used for the treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, such as GI pain, gastroenteritis and diarrhea. Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC; the active component of marijuana), as well as endogenous and synthetic cannabinoids, exert their biological functions on the gastrointestinal tract by activating two types of cannabinoid receptors, cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1 receptor) and cannabinoid type 2 receptor (CB2 receptor). While CB1 receptors are located in the enteric nervous system and in sensory terminals of vagal and spinal neurons and regulate neurotransmitter release, CB2 receptors are mostly distributed in the immune system, with a role presently still difficult to establish. Under pathophysiological conditions, the endocannabinoid system conveys protection to the GI tract, eg from inflammation and abnormally high gastric and enteric secretion. For such protective activities, the endocannabinoid system may represent a new promising therapeutic target against different GI disorders, including frankly inflammatory bowel diseases (eg, Crohn’s disease), functional bowel diseases (eg, irritable bowel syndrome), and secretion- and motility-related disorders.
Cannabidiol in inflammatory bowel diseases: a brief overview.
- Department of Physiology and Pharmacology Vittorio Erspamer, Faculty of Pharmacy and Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. email@example.com
This minireview highlights the importance of cannabidiol (CBD) as a promising drug for the therapy of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Actual pharmacological treatments for IBD should be enlarged toward the search for low-toxicityand low-cost drugs that may be given alone or in combination with the conventional anti-IBD drugs to increase their efficacy in the therapy of relapsing forms of colitis. In the past, Cannabis preparations have been considered new promising pharmacological tools in view of their anti-inflammatory role in IBD as well as other gut disturbances. However, their use in the clinical therapy has been strongly limited by their psychotropic effects. CBD is a very promising compound since it shares the typical cannabinoid beneficial effects on gut lacking any psychotropic effects. For years, its activity has been enigmatic for gastroenterologists and pharmacologists, but now it is evident that this compound may interact at extra-cannabinoid system receptor sites, such as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma. This strategic interaction makes CBD as a potential candidate for the development of a new class of anti-IBD drugs.