Medical marijuana has developed into a treatment for painful gastrointestinal disorders that involve bowel inflammation and cramping. These diseases include colitis, Crohn’s disease, and Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Often with these diseases patients can suffer from cramping, inflammation, chronic pain, weight loss, and diarrhea. Medical marijuana is often able to alleviate these symptoms substantially.
Crohn’s disease represents a chronic autoimmune inflammatory bowel disorder that causes intense, severe pain. The cause is unknown. Digestion is adversely affected, and in very rare cases it can be fatal. The disease is destructive to the intesting. There are over 500,000 people in the US who suffer from Crohn’s disease. In most states who have approved medical marijuana, Crohn’s disease is an accepted condition for usage.
Traditional medications utilized for Crohn’s include immunosuppressive ones such as Imuran, methotrexate, 6 MP, steroids, Mesalamine, and Remicade. These medications may cause the same symptoms as the disease including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Steroids have some side effects that may include adrenal dysfunction, bone thinning, ulcers, and glucose intolerance.
Various studies have shown promising results for medicinal marijuana alleviating the symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s.
A 2005 study published in O’Shaughnessy’s found that cannabis helped a lot with the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. It was a pilot study using marijuana at the Society of Cannabis Clinicians in a dozen patients with Crohn’s and patients described significant improvement for appetite, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, and depression. There were less flare-ups and fewer stools per day. Patients were able to decrease the amount of immunosuppressive medications necessary as well.
Another study from 2001 called Cannabinoids and the Gastrointestinal Tract found that the cannabinoids found in marijuana represent a potentially excellent option for the treatment of numerous GI disorders – including inflammatory bowel diseases, functional bowel diseases, gastro-esophageal reflux conditions, secretory diarrhea, gastric ulcers, and colon cancer. There are receptors both in the brain and the GI system named CB1 receptors. In animals the study showed that agonists for these receptors delayed gastric emptying and inhibited gastric acid secretion. CB1 receptors are mostly located in the brain.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Endocrinolog Investigation demonstrates that activation of the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors exert biological functions on the gastrointestinal tract.
There are CB2 receptors in numerous cells outside of the brain, including in the GI tract lining. Marijuana contains cannabinoids which activate the CB2 receptor – this is thought to decrease inflammation in the GI tract along with reducing pain and swelling. There is another compound in cannabis named beta-caryophyllene which turns on the CB-2 receptors as well.