Marijuana Helps Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis

2012-12-26 05:33
Marijuana for 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.

Esposito G et al. Cannabidiol in inflammatory bowel disease: a brief overview. Phytotherapy Research 2012 July; doi:10.1002/ptr.4781
Lahat A et al. Impact of cannabis treatment on the quality of life, weight and clinical disease activity in inflammatory bowel disease patients: a pilot prospective study. Digestion 2012; 85(1): 1-8
Lal S et al. Cannabis use amongst patients with inflammatory bowel disease. European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2011 Oct; 23(10): 891-96
Naftali T et al. Treatment of Crohn’s disease with cannabis: an observational study. Israel Medical Association Journal 2011 Aug; 1(8): 455-58

Image: Morguefile



We come to the same question again! What sort of research did the Italian team do to find the causes of Crohn's? A British surgeon and his team found dairy to be a causal factor. Did the Italian study read about this study? Did they concur? Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove an injurious pathogen and to initiate the healing process. This is only possible if the causes are removed from the diet. Although infection is caused by a microorganism, inflammation is one of the responses of the organism to the pathogen. However, inflammation is a stereotyped response, and therefore it is considered as a mechanism of innate immunity, as compared to adaptive immunity, which is specific for each pathogen. Without inflammation, wounds and infections would never heal. Acute inflammation as in Crohn's and RA is the initial response of the body to harmful stimuli. Prolonged inflammation, known as chronic inflammation, leads to a progressive shift in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation and is characterized by simultaneous destruction and healing of the tissue from the inflammatory process. Should we interfere with this important process?
Hans, In response to your statement- "Without inflammation, wounds and infections would never heal.", I concur in situations of the normal wound/response in a disease-free individual. However, what about the skin wounds that just never heal in people with Crohn's? In some Crohn's patients, the skin wounds literally overtake. The pain is insurmountable and nothing alleviates it. Furthermore, no amount of the body's inflammation works to combat these wounds and actually seems to make them worse. For pain management alone, this treatment may go a long way. Further, if it actually contributes to keeping the inflammation to a minimal, patients with Crohn's, whose bodies have gone awry, MAY benefit in increased healing. I'm no expert by any means, so this is purely speculation on my part. I have no idea if this would help or not and it is of course, partially "wishful thinking" While this remains to be seen, I'm sure there are many Crohn's sufferers who would surely be willing to give it a try. My friend suffers from this disease, and she would try anything in an attempt to make her disease even a FRACTION better.
Hi Shelly, You obviously did not read the whole of my comment, For instance, the cause! A British surgeon and his team found dairy to be a causal factor. Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove an injurious pathogen and to initiate the healing process. With other words, in order to reduce inflammation remove the cause! Acute inflammation as in Crohn's and RA is the response of the body to harmful stimuli. The skin is an organ of elimination. Skin lesions are the body's attempts to eliminate pathogen. Allergenic substances like milk products are seen by the immune system as a pathogen, a dangerous substance. and, for a lot of people, rightly so! “Marijuana allergy is fairly common,” according to Dr. Gordon Sussman, acting division director of clinical allergy and immunology at the University of Toronto. "Physicians don’t really generally ask about. People should consider it in the diagnosis of rhinitis [and other allergic symptoms], and even in people that have asthma and anaphylaxis.” Should we doctors treat an allergy caused disease with allergic substances? I think not.
The second last line of my comment should read; "Should we let doctors treat......". I am NOT a doctor, nor do I proclaim to be one.
Easy there Hans. Shelly was just pointing out that any treatment that can alleviate the awful symptoms of these diseases is a step in the right direction. I have had Ulcerative Colitis for over 26 years now, and I welcome anything that can alleviate a fraction of the pain I experience during a flare up. I tried acupuncture, healing visualization, and of course the latest and greatest drugs that have come out for my disease. Some have helped, others haven't. If marijuana is proven to help me out in the worst of a flare up then by all means, light me up! As far as diet, I would like to try to lead a normal life without restricting myself of foods I enjoy. Personally, restrictive diets never helped me, but I have heard it helps others. For what it's worth.
I guess most people would rather follow the' a pill for every ill', attitude, rather than prevention. You can perhaps mask the progress of disease with a pill, or in this case, with dope. It is easier that way, but not for long, as one disease leads to another unless you remove the cause. As far as dairy products are concerned, the older we get the harder it becomes to wean.
Crohn's Disease is an autoimmune disease. Most of the inflammation ( in various parts of the body) is caused by an over reaction of the immune system; it is mostly _not_ a normal, beneficial response to an infectious agent. Substances in marijuana may act as both an anti-inflammatory and an immune system suppressant, so i hope the research will continue.
In addition, related diseases such as ankylosing spondilitus which includes ibd as one of its symptomstic problems can be resolved with mmj. Having suffered with a.s. undiagnosed for 30 years, a chance encounter with mmj and subsequent research, gaveme continuing relief from 10 years on zantac and another 10 on acidopholous, both of which I do not need anymore. When the plumbing does not work, it is very depressing. Never hsd any problems in college when i last smoked weed with the pipes and mmj brought me back to 19 year old digestion.
In addition - Yes, inflammation is the body's way of healing - but with autoimmune diseases you have to use interventions to stop the inflammation - it is a whole system approach that has to be personalized.
I have been sick for most of my life from crohn's disease. Two years ago, suicide was on my mind often. I had tried all of the drugs used for crohn's and got sicker from the so called treatments. After having half of my intestines removed and trying all of the medications I decided to try cannabis. I don't have words to describe what happened. My life changed that day. I have no idea why cannabis worked and I could not care less. I take no other drugs now and it has been two years without the awful diarrhea and pain. I can now leave my house without the fear of not being near a bathroom. I read people arguing about the medical benefits of cannabis and find it rediculous.
Thank you for sharing your story. You do not mention how much cannabis you are using or how often, but it is wonderful that it is working for you. I wish you continued success!
I'm interested too. I am thinking it might be different for everyone though - I've ready some people use cannabis daily while others need less. I would suppose it depends on symptom severity?
Agree... I tried rick simpson oil but only had a weeks worth soars in my mouth that had been there at least 2-3 yrs are gone and havent returned,I felt better had my life back for that week,,wish I had more of it..cant wait for it to be legal here so I can grow my meds! I couldnt believe how my belly went down in day 3 by day 4 I wanted to leave my house go do something..nausea and bloating were gone I was in awe and wanted I sit in tears waiting for laws to change so I can heal or even cure myself.
My son has suffered from UC for 11 years and he is 22. How did you take the cannibus. We are at the of our rope.
Russell, I am so happy for you. That is outstanding and I'm so glad you got your life back. Thank so much for sharing.
I'm waiting for my state to legalize Marijuana for medical use. Then I will ask my Dr. for a prescription. Because it really works! The bleeding stops and you don't have to go to the bathroom , and your bowl movements become normal again!! If my Dr. will not agree to give me a prescription then I will change Dr's !!!
Dennis: Thank you for sharing your experiences with marijuana for Crohn's disease. I wish you continued success with its use and hope your state soon joins the growing number of states that have legalized it for medical use.