Medical Marijuana And Liver Disease: What Science Says Is Possible

Your endocannabinoid system is key.

Liver disease
Photo by Flickr user Qasim Zafar

Liver disease occurs when the liver experiences a high amount of tissue scarring. This is typically a direct result of constant inflammation and the death of vital cells. This disease inflicts more than 400,000 people each year and is ranked among the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S.

However, for a disease with such an ugly outcome, a pretty solution may be in the near future.

In 2005 researchers at the Hebrew University Medical School concluded that our body’s own internal cannabinoid system (the endocannabinoid system) has receptors that bind with cannabis’ most active ingredient, THC. This very system regulates not only the nervous system, but the immune system as well.

Therefore, researchers concluded that cannabis may possibly be able to help people suffering from certain forms of liver disease because of our preexisting cannabinoid system.

While this study showed a possible connection between liver disease and cannabinoids, more research was needed.

Following the 2005 study’s conclusions, a 2011 study published in the journal of Cell Death and Disease used mouse models to determine that cannabidiol or CBD (cannabis’ non-intoxicating ingredient) causes infected liver cells to participate in apoptosis, also known as cell suicide.

They concluded their research noting that CBD may have “great therapeutic potential.” Even better, controlled doses of CBD do not affect healthy or non-malignant cells. So it can attack the bad cells and shy away from the good ones.

But if cannabis has positive effects on liver disease cam it also have negative effects? According to science, not particularly.

Cannabis consumption does not increase or accelerate the progression of liver disease. In a 2013 study, researchers studied 690 liver disease patients – specifically patients with HIV and Hepatitis C infections.

At the start of the experiment, 53 percent of the subjects had smoked cannabis in the last six months, consuming an average of seven joints per week. 40 percent of the subjects smoked daily.

Researchers concluded that “There was no evidence that marijuana smoking accelerates progression to significant liver fibrosis.”

So, no, smoking cannabis won’t worsen liver disease, if anything, the last 12 years of research prove it could help.

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