In 2005, the Society of Cannabis Clinicians ran a pilot study on the effect of cannabis on Crohn’s disease patients. In the resulting report, published in O’Shaughnessy’s: The Journal Of Cannabis In Clinical Practice, participants in the study demonstrated remarkable changes in their symptoms. Patients reported decreases in pain, vomiting, depression and fatigue accompanied by increases in appetite and activity. Summarizing the report’s findings and implications, Dr. Jeff Hergenrather, MD, president of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians noted:
“Crohn’s disease is so debilitating and life-threatening and so difficult to manage with conventional medications it is very encouraging to find that cannabis is proving to be an effective treatment for it right now.”
Over the past decade, multiple studies have reinforced this conclusion, calling for continued clinical research into ways that cannabis can be used to address the long list of debilitating symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease. Furthermore, data uncovered in the past four years has considerably expanded the scientific community’s understanding of how cannabis can be of assistance to patients afflicted with a severe inflammatory bowel disease.
“Positives experienced by Crohn’s disease sufferers came without significant side effects.”
Initial clinical trials demonstrate positive results without side-effects
The first clinical trial of the usefulness of medical cannabis for the treatment of Crohn’s disease was performed by Tel Aviv University’s Meir Medical Center and Sackler Faculty of Medicine in Israel, with the results published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2013.
A selection of 21 Crohn’s disease patients who had proven resistant to therapy via steroids, immunomodulators, or anti-tumor necrosis factor- agents were selected for the trial and split into two groups, one ingesting cannabis and the other a placebo group. Roughly 45 percent of the cannabis group experienced complete remission, while over 90 percent of the cannabis group observed a clinical response. Three patients were even weaned off of steroids over the course of the study. Most importantly, the positive impacts experienced by Crohn’s disease sufferers came without significant side effects. The conclusion emphasized that the results of the study fully warranted future research.
Further research has shed light on how medical cannabis affects the body of Crohn’s patients
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system has laid the groundwork for numerous studies regarding the health benefits of THC, which activates cannabinoid (CB) receptors and their associated inflammatory mechanisms by mimicking the behavior of anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. According to a 2014 article published in Pharmacology, this line of inquiry has also exposed greater details regarding the physiological benefits of cannabis for the treatment of Crohn’s disease.
Two discoveries, in particular, strengthen the scientific case for cannabis for treatment of Crohn’s disease. First, studies have shown that components of the endocannabinoid system are particularly present in the gastrointestinal tract wall of the gastrointestinal tract houses all components of the endocannabinoid system. Recent data has also shown that CB2 receptors are directly linked to the mechanism by which CB receptors control the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. The scientific community still lacks a detailed understanding of this mechanism but experimental models of stomach tracts have helped researchers begin to narrow down the exact role that CB2 plays in improving inflammation. Further clinical trials, spurred on by ongoing publication of observational and anecdotal benefits of cannabis for Crohn’s disease treatment, are sure to crystalize the process.
Recent study shows that cannabis continues to improve remission rates
Researchers at the Center for Biomedical Research at the University of Granada published their own findings regarding the positive impacts of cannabis use for Crohn’s disease patients in the 2015 issue of Mediators of Inflammation. A placebo-controlled study examined the effects of cannabis ingestion by Crohn’s disease patients was linked to improvement in disease symptoms, a lowered chance that patients will require surgery and reduced dependence on other types of medications to treat symptoms. The study performed by the University of Granada also reported that half of the subjects participating in the cannabis group experienced complete remission over the course of the study.
With more information supporting the medical benefits of cannabis for Crohn’s patients reinforced in new medical research each year, it’s only a matter of time before those suffering this disease gain wider access to additional resources for managing their symptoms.