Even though research into medical marijuana is drastically limited, more and more studies are coming in to awaken the world to its various benefits. The use of medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease, a debilitating disorder that has proven virtually untreatable for many, is just another way the benefits of this plant are becoming known throughout the country and the world.
The Difference Between IBS and Crohn’s Disease
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS) is the broad term used to describe a variety of illnesses that have chronic or recurring immune response and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The most common types of IBS are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that occurs in the colon (the large bowel) causing a host of painful symptoms. The first is a loosening of the stool that may eventually lead to abdominal cramping, an urgency to have a bowel movement and blood in the stool.
Crohn’s disease is a gastrointestinal condition that relates to chronic inflammation and can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, although it most commonly occurs within the small intestine or the beginning of the large intestine. The symptoms include rectal bleeding, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Both conditions can lead to weight loss and fatigue.
Studying Medical Marijuana for Crohn’s Disease Treatment
Dr. Timna Naftali, an Israeli physician and a leading marijuana researcher in her country, has been studying the effects of medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease for some time now. Her first study was conducted in 2008 and involved 21 long-term Crohn’s disease patients. Half of the patients received two marijuana cigarettes to smoke each day while the other half received a placebo of cannabis flowers that contained no THC. Patients who smoked the marijuana cigarettes showed a marked improvement.
In 2011, however, Naftali achieved much greater goals. Her team used Tikun Olam’s Erez strain to conduct a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. The study, titled; “Treatment of Crohn’s Disease with Cannabis: An Observational Study,” was published in the Israel Medical Association Journal.
“Complete remission was achieved in the control group by 5 of 11 subjects who used cannabis and 1 of 10 in the placebo group,” Naftali explained. “Several were weaned from steroid dependency, and the cannabis group reported improved appetite and sleep … all with no significant side effects.”
Earlier Studies Into Cannabis and Crohn’s Disease
In 2004, the Journal of Clinical Investigation published a study titled “The Endogenous Cannabinoid System Protects Against Colonic Inflammation.” The study evaluated the anti-inflammatory benefits of medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease, a condition that is based in chronic inflammation.
In 2005, O’Shaughnessy’s, a scientific journal, published a study called; “Cannabis Alleviates Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease.” 12 patients were interviewed about the effects of medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease. They were asked to describe the effects and how various symptoms such as appetite, pain, nausea, vomiting, depression, fatigue and activity levels were affected. Marijuana was found by patients to be extremely beneficial for treating Crohn’s disease.
How the Properties of Cannabis Treat Crohn’s
Cannabis has been found to treat a number of illnesses for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis have made it beneficial for a whole host of disorders including Alzheimer’s, chronic pain disorders and, of course, Crohn’s disease. It has been used to also treat nausea, pain and depression; all symptoms of Crohn’s disease. There are two major compounds used for their medicinal purposes in marijuana: CBD and THC. While CBD is an effective treatment for inflammation and pain, THC combats nausea and depression. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound in marijuana that does have a relaxing, anti-anxiety effect but will not make you high. THC on the other hand has the psychoactive element in marijuana that produces a euphoric effect. Strains of marijuana and methods of consumption can contain varying amounts of both compounds and there are CBD-only options available as tinctures and oils.
The body contains an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is made up of receptors all through the body that are responsible for creating homeostasis in the body, regulating mood, appetite, sleep and general wellbeing. Illness and age can contribute to the ECS not functioning at its best. The compounds in cannabis trigger the ECS receptors which in and of itself has the potential to heal a variety of conditions. This may be another reason why many use medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease.
Underreporting of Medical Marijuana for Crohn’s Disease
While medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, many of which include IBS on the list of qualifying disorders, not everyone is comfortable being open about their use of medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease. Researchers at Harvard Medical School did a study into the effects of medical marijuana legalization on patients in Massachusetts. They specifically focused on whether the number of people who sought out “medical marijuana” had increased. They surveyed 300 patients with IBS and found that while the number of patients using marijuana had almost doubled from 12 percent in 2012 to 23 percent in 2017, the patients were not using marijuana through official means.
Marijuana treats a large host of ailments and it can be said that all marijuana is medicinal. People use it to self-medicate for all kinds of reasons; from anxiety and depression to IBS, insomnia and cancer. However, researchers proposed that some patients are uncomfortable placing their name on an official registry that may come back to bite them some day. It could be the lingering negative stigma that makes patients afraid of asking their doctor about the treatment options. While many have success using medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease, they may be self-medicating in a private way. Perhaps when the plant has been legalized on a federal level, patients will feel more comfortable. Educating doctors on the benefits of marijuana for a variety of illnesses will allow them to bring up treatment options to patients and remove the stigma.
Nonetheless, many are using medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease and finally getting relief from the debilitating disorder. As more research is done, more education will be available about strains and dosage so that patients can get the best possible care.