Recent studies in adults report symptom relief with marijuana use in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). We assessed the prevalence, pattern, effects, and adverse effects of marijuana use in young adults with IBD.
We conducted a prospective questionnaire survey study at a pediatric IBD clinic. All patients (18-21 years of age) answered anonymous questionnaires about demographics, IBD, medications, and marijuana use.
Fifty-three patients (mean age 18.7 years, 32 boys) were enrolled. Thirty-seven patients (70%) reported using marijuana currently or in the past. There was no statistically significant difference between the users and nonusers of marijuana regarding demographics, disease activity, or medications. Despite prolonged use of marijuana, 70% of patients did not discuss it with their gastroenterologists. Twenty-four patients used marijuana medicinally for IBD symptoms in addition to medical therapy. Although majority found marijuana to be moderately/very helpful, complete relief of symptoms such as abdominal pain, poor appetite, nausea, and diarrhea was seen in 29%, 37%, 14%, and 10% of patients, respectively. Only half of patients reported knowledge of possible adverse effects of marijuana and 19% of patients reported mild neuropsychiatric adverse effects. Overall, 98% of patients supported legalization of marijuana and 85% were interested in using medical marijuana if it became legally available.
We found a high rate of marijuana use in our cohort of young adults with IBD. Majority of users report symptom improvement but do not inform physicians. Future well-controlled studies are necessary to assess role of marijuana in IBD therapy.