In a new study, medical cannabis was found to improve symptoms and reduce hospital visits in patients living with inflammatory bowel disease.
IBD is a term used to describe conditions which cause inflammation in the digestive tracts, most notably ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease.
While UC affects the large intestine, Crohn’s can affect any part of the digestive system. Common symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloody stools, weight loss and fatigue.
The effects of IBD can spread across the whole body and be a debilitating disease to live with both physically and mentally.
Research conducted by Crohn’s & Colitis UK in earlier this year suggests that one in every 123 people in the UK have either Crohn’s or UC.
While more clinical evidence is needed, this latest study further points to the benefits of cannabis for Crohn’s and colitis.
Researchers in the US were investigating patterns of use and adverse effects from medical cannabis in patients with IBD.
A cross-sectional anonymous survey was conducted between October 2020-January 2021 among 236 patients accessing medical cannabis dispensaries in New York and Minnesota.
All patients were 18 years or older, with a self-reported diagnosis of IBD. The overall disease activity was described as mild to moderate. The majority of patients (61%) were also taking a biological medicine.
Survey questions included IBD characteristics, how they used medical cannabis and any side effects or adverse events.
Usage patterns and symptoms before and after medical cannabis use were compared using the Stuart Maxwell test.
On average, patients consumed cannabis at least once within the past week. Most used high-THC products, mainly vape pens and cartridges (78.6%).
Respondents reported fewer emergency room visits in the 12 months after versus before medical cannabis use and found that their symptoms had less impact on their daily life.
Three quarters of respondents reported euphoria from medical cannabis use, while other side effects were feeling drowsy and/or groggy with memory lapses (4.2%) dry mouth/eyes (3.4%), and anxiety/depression or paranoia (3.4%).
The authors of the study have now called for further studies to confirm the findings and explore the effect of medical cannabis on disease activity.
They concluded: “MC users with IBD perceive symptom benefits and report decreased emergency room visits without serious adverse effects. Further studies are needed to confirm these results with objective measures of healthcare utilisation and disease activity.”