On average, individuals with Crohn’s disease pay over $10,000 per day for hospitalization. Compared to the daily average of around $4,000 per day for other disease-related hospital stays, seeking care for Crohn’s disease is expensive.
Medication for Crohn’s disease can be expensive, too. Nevermind that many patients find no relief in these traditional pharmaceuticals.
With the recent trend toward natural remedies, more attention is being paid to the benefits of cannabis for medical disorders. Crohn’s disease is no exception.
Want to know more about the evidence behind using marijuana for Crohn’s disease? Keep reading.
Crohn’s Disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD occurs when the immune system attacks the GI tract, leading to the disease’s characteristic presence of inflammation. Individuals suffering from Crohn’s Disease in particular experience inflammation of the GI tract anywhere between the mouth and the rectum.
In the United States alone, 3.1 million people suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s. The disease is prevalent among men and women at equal rates. While symptoms can occur at any time, most people experience them first between the ages of 15 years and 35 years.
The symptoms of Crone’s disease include:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Low appetite
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
The causes of Crohn’s disease aren’t fully understood. However, it is known that 20% of people with the disease also have a relative with Crohn’s. In addition to hereditary causes, bacteria or viruses in the environment and immune system overreaction are associated with the development of Crohn’s.
Unhealthy diets, high levels of stress, and tobacco product use also exacerbate the symptoms of the disease.
The current medications for Crohn’s disease attempt to reduce the inflammation. These include ciprofloxacin, aminosalicylates, and steroids.
While these medications help reduce the discomfort of an inflamed GI tract, their side effects reduce a patient’s quality of life. Infection, allergic reaction, autoimmune disease, and even lymphoma are known side effects of Crohn’s disease medications.
Additionally, some patients feel no relief at all with these medications. That’s why researchers have begun the search for alternative medications to treat IBD.
Cannabis and Crohn’s Disease Research
Researchers are finding more and more reasons to use cannabis and its cannabinoids in modern medical research.
That’s why it’s no surprise cannabis and Crohn’s disease is a burgeoning field of research. In the last 12 years, multiple studies have found links between cannabis use and Crone’s symptom relief.
Here are the results of only five of those studies and their implications for the use of medical cannabis for Crohn’s disease.
In 2007, Spanish researchers polled patients with IBD about their use of cannabis. Of 214 patients, 10% self-reported using cannabis for symptoms of IBD.
2011 Study (1)
A similar study in Canada went a bit further. This 2011 poll received self-reports from 291 patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.
Of those patients, 48% reported having used cannabis at least once over their lifetime. Nearly 16% stated that they were current users.
More interesting, though, was the finding that 33%-50% of those polled reported using marijuana for Crohn’s disease symptoms.
2011 Study (2)
Another 2011 study in Israel found 21 significant improvements in the progression of Crohn’s disease out of 30 patients polled. Progression was measured using disease symptoms.
The specific symptoms measured were:
- low appetite
Unlike other previous studies, this one found that patients experienced a decreased need for other Crohn’s-related medications while consuming cannabis.
In another Israeli study in 2012, researchers performed the first ever controlled study of a randomized group of patients with Crohn’s disease.
The study included 13 patients who had been suffering from the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. After 3 months of treatment, patients reported improvement in the quality of life, a lowered rate of disease activity, and weight gain.
American researchers completed a final poll of 292 IBD patients in 2013. This study found a smaller number of cannabis users with only 12.3% self-reporting that they had used cannabis at some point in their lifetime.
Interestingly, 32% of lifetime marijuana consumers started using to help with symptoms of IBD.
While these studies don’t mean marijuana is a cure for Crohn’s disease, the therapeutic benefits of cannabis products can definitely lessen the negative symptoms of Crohn’s disease and improve quality of life.
One reason this may be so is that the medications for IBDs have extremely adverse side effects. Since cannabis has little to no short-term side effects, this may be the reason patients found such relief.
Other reasons for relief from cannabis use may be because people feel a sense of control over the disease with medication. Additionally, most medications for Crohn’s disease weren’t created to help the pain, nausea, and low appetite like marijuana can.
Why Use Marijuana for Crohn’s Disease?
While the jury is still out on whether Crohn’s can actually be treated with cannabis, one thing is clear. People who experience a low quality of life due to the symptoms of Crohn’s disease can find relief with cannabis.
There are almost no short-term side effects of using marijuana for Crohn’s disease. But the long-term side effects are still under discussion.
Here are some negative effects a Crohn’s patient might feel after prolonged marijuana use:
- Short-term memory loss
- Cannabis addiction
- Anxiety featuring paranoia
Yet these adverse reactions can be combatted. Consuming low effective doses of marijuana and choosing products with higher levels of CBD (a non-psychoactive cannabinoid) than THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) can help reduce negative side effects. Be sure to talk to your physician about using CBD oil for Crohn’s symptoms.
Looking for more information about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis? Head over to our Health articles for everything you need to know about marijuana and medicine.