Treating Crohn’s Disease: Is Cannabis the Key?

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Why Medical Marijuana for Crohn's Disease Could Work

Hundreds of thousands of people in the US alone suffer from Crohn’s disease — a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects your gastrointestinal tract. And while there is currently no cure for this illness, the good news is that using medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease has the potential to provide relief of symptoms and improved quality of life for those battling this condition.

Cannabis has been used for therapeutic purposes for centuries, but the link between cannabis and Crohn’s disease is a more recent discovery that is changing the way people approach this illness.

To understand why medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease works, you need to understand how Crohn’s disease impacts your body. Contrary to common misconception, Crohn’s is not an autoimmune disease, but an immune deficiency that results in inflammation throughout your GI tract. That means that Crohn’s can affect everyone differently and while inflammation is most commonly found at the end of the small intestine, it can also affect anywhere from your mouth to your anus.

Just as the part of the body impacted can change from person to person, the symptoms range as well. The disease can cause everything from mild abdominal pain to more severe cases of nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and fevers.

Enter Medical Marijuana for Crohn’s Disease

Imagine if there was some sort of natural way to combat nausea and reduce pain. Oh wait, there is! Cannabis has been improving physical ailments and illness for thousands of years. And now experts agree that it may be just the solution needed to help treat Crohn’s.

A 2016 report published in the journal Gastroenterology & Hepatology notes that “there is growing recognition of a fraction of IBD patients who are using cannabis for symptomatic control of their IBD, reportedly with successful management of abdominal pain, joint pain, cramping, diarrhea, poor appetite, weight loss, and nausea.”

So exactly why does marijuana help chronic cases of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and what is the link between cannabis and Crohn’s disease? You can thank pot’s anti-inflammatory qualities for its ability to ease symptoms related to Crohn’s disease. For the same reason that cannabis can help patients dealing with arthritis and multiple sclerosis, it can help combat the symptoms of Crohn’s by reducing inflammation in the affected areas of the GI tract. Marijuana can reduce the pesky inflammation problem that leads to so many other unpleasant symptoms of Crohn’s (diarrhea, nausea, pain…)

And yes, it works.

THC-rich cannabis produced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits to 11 patients with active Crohn’s disease, compared with placebo, without side effects.

In 2013 scientists at the Meir Medical Center in Israel conducted a prospective trial to determine whether or not cannabis can induce remission in patients with Crohn’s disease. They evaluated 21 participants, all of whom had severe intractable Crohn’s disease. 10 participants were in the placebo group (those poor souls) and the other 11 subjects smoked two joints a day, for eight weeks (those lucky subjects).

And if you ask the researchers, the findings demonstrate that “THC-rich cannabis produced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits to 11 patients with active Crohn’s disease, compared with placebo, without side effects.”

This is a big deal, especially that last part: without side effects. One problem of certain other treatments for Crohn’s are the potential side effects, which come along with any pharmaceutical drugs.

There’s Still Much We Don’t Know About Medical Marijuana for Crohn’s Disease

The fact that marijuana is still considered a Schedule I illegal substance on a federal level makes it really hard to conduct any concrete medical research or find any solid scientific proof that cannabis can help patients with Crohn’s. That said, experts are doing their best to establish a link and demonstrate that medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease is a really good option in managing this disease.

While there are issues with the research available to date, such as short follow-up periods and small samples, the potential for cannabis to help manage Crohn’s is very real. And for patients battling this chronic condition, especially when other treatment therapies are ineffective, marijuana presents an opportunity to gain hope and control over the disease in a natural, safe way.

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