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What effect does smoking marijuana have on Crohn's disease?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Does smoking marijuana treat 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.

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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.



After more than 40 years of nearly daily use, it seems harmful effects on the lungs are minimal.
Chris, I know, but since there aren't any studies, they won't say that. In this case, I think the authors are erring on the side of caution. Just like so many diseases, like Crohn's even, you just don't know what might trigger something worse in people who are susceptible from marijuana smoke. So, if they can study this more safely, that's a positive thing. I think most people would agree. Do you use it to treat Crohn's symptoms, or at least in part. :)
I procured a vaporizer from a friend of mine who uses marijuana for his "own purposes". I have had Crohn's since I was 13 (now almost 40). I can say that I used it very mildly and as a former smoker, find the vaporizer (which allows you to inhale vapor not smoke) a great way to get the THC into your system without the damage to your lungs. For pain management and to relax that constant tensed up feeling it can be a real great help. I find it also allows me to consider eating when I otherwise would not want to. I think there is still a stigma of deviance associated with using marijuana for legitimate purposes. It's unfortunate that the mass media in some cases still portrays marijuana use as some sort of college or criminal subculture. Quite possibly these same people who are stereotyping it are pounding back drinks on the weekend yet see no problems with that activity. Alcohol (to my knowledge) doesn't have any benefit for a Crohn's patient. It appears that marijuana may indeed have benefit for Crohn's. So let's hope the medical community and the physicians with the ability to prescribe for the right reason get more comfortable with it as a treatment option.
PJ - I agree. And researchers are looking at vaporizers too as a safer way to provide medical marijuana.
I looked at marijuana as more of a pain reliever than a cure. That would be a drastic move to change your medical therapy. Of course folks would relapse after they stop taking their meds. Marijuana does work like the Asacol 5 or Azathioprine meds of the world. Kinda stupid to think they would. Oh well all for science hey? I imagine one would have to smoke this long term in order for it to have a better benefit. Adding hemp oil and or hemp seed to your diet would not hurt either.
Diana - I had the same thought about the effects wearing off. I think it wasn't entirely expected that it would happen though because they know the compound in marijuana has anti-inflammatory benefits. So I surmised they were exploring exactly because of that reason. Could THC stop the intestinal inflammation in other words - but the answer was "no", but symptomatic relief is still good too, right?
I really hope that further investigation will be available soon and it could be intretesting to investigate how personality traits (perfectionism, anxiety, ...) might contribute in the development of IBD
Claudio, it would be interesting indeed. Anxiety and stress affect our body in ways we still don't understand. I mean, we know it does, for instance, especially with heart disease, but what about other areas? And what is the biological pathway that does that other than inflammation? Most people admit to flare-ups when they have stress, but we do need studies too.
Not recommended for long-term use, it's better to take cancer causing drugs long-term so the drug companies can make more money off of us.
Hemp oil is a natural way to add to your daily health routine for crohn's and colitis. It is not a cure but the properties aid in the inflammation of the diseases and add omega 3, 6, 9 to your diet. A win win
Thank you for sharing Diana. Definitely want to do whatever possible to quell inflammation. Omega-3 and the right type of omega-6 fatty acids seem to be important too.
I am 58 and have had Severe Crohn's since age 11. I had surgeries in 1969 and 1999. Humira has put the disease in remission. I have used marijuana to help with the associated symptoms for over 35 years. THC is better for appetite and nausea than Zofran or any pill I have ever been prescribed. It's not a cure but it reduces anxiety, calms the gut, and helps me get to sleep. Bring on the studies and use a vaporizer to minimize effects on the lungs. I had a thorough check up last month and my lungs and heart are in great shape.
My doctor is wanting to put me on Humira ... Any comments / concerns if you have taken Humira would be greatly appreciated!!
What I am getting out of this is that EVERY state needs to immediately legalize medical marijuana so it can be MASSIVELY studied. It is sad how HUGE a strangle hold our government and pharmaceutical industry has on marijuana and its true curing properties.
Your right in what your saying , I've heard these companies are pumping millions into media towards anti marijuana campaigns , its just disturbing the lack of humanity in the world . people suffer the ultimate consequences and in the end we are only a number . its the most natural way to heal , take a look at the Stanley brothers and Charlotte's web and how it affects the symptoms of epilepsy . I truly believe that cbd is the best way to treat people without the common 'high' we associate with marijuana . I have yet to try this oil but I definitely will be !
Everyone should decide for themselves. 6MP DID NOT work for me!!! I notice i feel better after smoking weed; even once a week is enough to keep me healthy. Why not try it? It has made my quality of life indistiguishable from a non crohns patient. Try it and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!! If you feel better then its good, otherwise its not for you. No harm in trying something that won't kill you! Please just decide for yourself!
I was diagnosed with Crohns last year in September. I was taking steroids and also a granulate medicine. I also smoked Marijuana daily to help with the pain and nasia. Also to help me have an appetite and sleep better. After the first week of using Marijuana the pain and blood stopped. After two weeks my stool was almost back to normal. The Doctors were amazed how fast I recovered. I never told them I use Cannabis cause I live in Germany and here they think its a joke. He cut the steroids down to a quarter of the normal amount. I stopped smoking Cannabis because i couldnt find any good dealers. A few days after I stopped using it the Crohns came back and now Im in a lot of pain and discomfort. I also dont have any Cannabis because Germany doesnt legalize it and I dont like to buy from the streets. I have a feeling some of the reason it flared up is because I stopped using Cannabis. Anyone have any thoughts to that?
My mother has crohns and she has been in the hospital for about a mounth now