Crohn’s Disease and Medical Marijuana
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. The inflammation can involve any part of the digestive tract, but in many people it occurs at the end of the small intestine (the ileum) and the large intestine (or colon).
Approximately 700,000 Americans are affected by Crohn’s disease. The exact cause of Crohn’s disease remains unknown. It might be caused by a virus or bacteria that triggers the body’s immune system to attack cells in the digestive tract. Hereditary factors also play a role. Stress and a poor diet can aggravate the condition.
What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
- Abdominal pain and cramps, sometimes severe enough to cause nausea and vomiting
- Severe diarrhea
- Fatigue and fever
- Weight loss and malnutrition
- Blood in the stool
The inflammation often spreads deep into the affected bowel tissue and can cause complications such as bowel obstructions, ulcers, and fistulas.
How is Crohn’s disease treated?
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but its symptoms can be treated and the disease can sometimes be brought into long-term submission. With treatment, a person with Crohn’s disease can enjoy a relatively normal life.
How does medical marijuana help Crohn’s disease?
Studies of patients with Crohn’s disease who used medical marijuana suggest that cannabis is effective in alleviating the symptoms and limiting inflammation in the intestinal tract. Many patients reported that their symptoms diminished, they began to gain weight, and their social lives improved.
People with Crohn’s disease produce unnaturally low levels of endocannabinoids, compounds produced by the body that resemble the cannabinoids in medical marijuana. Cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) are found throughout the digestive system and on immune cells. Medical marijuana may act on these receptors to block the destructive activity of the immune cells.
- Treatment of Crohn’s Disease with Cannabis: An Observational Study, Naftali, L. Bar Lev, D. Yablekovitz, E. Half and F.M. Konikoff
- Therapeutic Use of Cannabis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Waseem Ahmed, MD and Seymour Katz, MD
- Cannabis Finds Its Way into Treatment of Crohn’s Disease, Rudolf Schichoa, Martin Storr