What effect does smoking marijuana have on Crohn's disease?
Crohn's disease causes symptoms of pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss for some from nutritional deficiencies and can affect any part of the body from the mouth to the intestinal tract. Marijuana is used medicinally to treat a variety of gastrointestinal issues including nausea. Researchers recently studied the role of cannabis (marijuana) to find out if the plant could help treat Crohn's disease.
Marijuana temporarily relieves Crohn's symptoms
In study findings published October, 2013 in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, investigators compared placebo to smoking marijuana among 21 study participants.
The group was randomly assigned to either smoke medical marijuana or a 'dummy' (placebo) cigarette for 8-weeks. All of the patients in the study had active Crohn's disease and 80 percent had either not responded to anti-tumor necrosis factor therapy or were unable to tolerate the treatment. The study authors used inhaled marijuana instead of ingested forms to boost blood levels of THC compounds rapidly.
The researchers found THC, the active component in marijuana decreased Crohn's disease activity in 90 percent of of those treated, compared to just 40 percent of the placebo group. Three patients were able to stop taking steroids, there were no side effects and the study participants given marijuana reported improved appetite and better sleep.
But the effects were temporary. Smoking marijuana also failed to reduce inflammation that is the hallmark of Crohn's disease. Patients relapsed two-weeks after stopping therapy, the study found.
Past studies also support marijuana for helping people manage Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
The study authors concluded cannabis should not be recommended for long-term use for Crohn's disease, pending more studies. The investigation was the first double-blind, placebo-controlled study to investigate whether marijuana cannabinoids that have a known anti-inflammatory effect could be beneficial for treating Crohn's disease. There is also concern about marijuana's harmful effect on the lungs. The study authors recommended larger trials that use another form of marijuana other than smoking.