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.