New data shows IBS patients who used marijuana experienced less hospitalizations and shorter visits compared to non-users.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a frustrating and isolating illness for many patients. One study estimates that up to 20% of Americans experience IBS, which is considered a chronic disease. Some patients have manageable symptoms and are able to proceed uninterrupted throughout their day. For others, the gastrointestinal disorder can lead to a poor quality of life. Research indicates those with IBS miss three times as many workdays as those without bowel symptoms.
Now, researchers at Rutgers University suggest in a new study that marijuana can help ease the suffering of patients with severe IBS symptoms. The study was presented online this week in an event organized by Digestive Disease Week — a conference to begin May 2 in Chicago but canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
Researchers analyzed 2016 data of Nationwide Readmissions Database from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, comparing IBS patients who were cannabis users vs. non-cannabis users. Among non-cannabis users, all-cause 30-day readmission rates were 12.7%. In cannabis users, that figures was only 8.1%. The study also found cannabis use correlated with shorter hospital stays and overall lower hospitalization charges.
The study included 6,798 adult IBS patients, 357 of which were identified as cannabis users. The non-cannabis group had a mean age of about 53 years while marijuana users were about 36 years on average. Women were the primary gender in both cannabis users (62%) and non-users (81%)—which is expected, as IBS affects more women than men.
There is no cure for IBS, but a 2005 report indicated that marijuana could provide future therapeutic potential for patients. Unfortunately, there aren’t many studies around how marijuana treats IBS. A 2015 medical survey found that 70% of IBS patients who used CBD experienced improved moods as a result. Before using CBD, participants reported an average pain score of seven. Following CBD use, the pain score dropped to four.