Study: Marijuana Can Eradicate Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Marijuana consumption has doubled for those suffering IBD symptoms.

Photo by Tharakorn/Getty Images

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have been asking questions about citizens’ cannabis use. They wondered if legalization of medical marijuana in Massachusetts in 2012 has had an effect on the use patterns of patients. They were specifically interested in people with inflammatory bowel disease, IBD, and the results may surprise you. 

Most people go through their daily routine without any concern about how their intestines are doing. They don’t worry about severe cramping or losing bowel control when going about their lives. The same cannot be said of people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. It can be a life-altering condition with additional serious symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloody stool, weight loss and a lack of appetite. 

IBD includes two main subsets of the disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both are qualifying conditions accepted to be a medical marijuana patient in Massachusetts. Logic would follow that as cannabis became a legal option for those suffering from the condition more people would consume to alleviate their symptoms. Afterall, the herb has been well documented in its efficacy when it comes to providing relief for IBD symptoms. It has shown to relieve inflammation. cannabis has also shown to be an antioxidant and provide neuroprotection. That is why the US Government is seeking a patent for this purpose. 

In this study, over 300 patients with IBD were surveyed. Although there was an almost doubling of marijuana use within the sample from 12 percent in 2012 to almost 23 percent in 2017, there was no significant increase due to what was considered “medical marijuana” use. Over half said that legalization made no impact on their decision to use “medical marijuana.” 

Some people argue that while all marijuana use is not intended to be medical, the plant offers rewards regardless of how you categorize its use. “Recreational” or “medical” use doesn’t matter to the plant; it does not discriminate. We know that many people self-medicate. They read an article or some bit of research about a remedy and do a solo case study. People do this to cure hiccups, headaches and to relieve hangovers without any professional guidance. They just want to fix it quickly.   

By no means do all people who use cannabis to relieve a wide variety of symptoms consider themselves medical marijuana users. Some just do not see the need to go through the trouble to become a patient. Others fear being placed on any sort of registry or creating a health record that could come back to haunt them in some way. These researchers suggested that a process like this could be one barrier that prevents more involvement in the official medical marijuana system. A reluctance to speak with their physician is another reason that they listed. In the end, they could not be certain of the reasons. 

Studies like this provide an interesting and important snapshot into this moment of increasing legalization. It helps us better understand usage patterns and barriers to entry for patients. They also spotlight the need for additional education for both patients and their healthcare providers to know more about the possible benefits of cannabis for health conditions. 

The world of cannabis is a wild growing tapestry of experience and understanding. We thank the folks at Harvard and all similar efforts to contribute to its depth and composition.

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