Researchers from a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts say that many patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are turning to medical marijuana, and finding it helpful.
Published last week in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, the study shows that the majority of IBD patients who try medical marijuana find it “very helpful” for relief of common symptoms, including abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea.
The research was conducted at an academic medical center at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and involved a total of 292 patients with IBD. The authors wrote:
“A significant number of patients with IBD currently use marijuana. Most patients find it very helpful for symptom control, including patients with ulcerative colitis, who are currently excluded from medical marijuana laws.”
Interestingly, while a large portion of patients in the study reported never trying marijuana, about half of those who never tried it said they’d be interested if it were legally available.
The authors note that “clinical trials are needed” to confirm whether marijuana is indeed helpful, since the study was only based on patients’ reports.
Indeed, while animal studies suggest that marijuana could be useful in IBD, only a single small-scale human study has been done so far.
Published earlier this year by researchers at Israel’s Tel Aviv University, the study found that 5 of 11 patients with Crohn’s disease achieved “complete remission” after eight weeks of medical marijuana treatment. In comparison, only 1 of 10 patients in the placebo group went into remission.[pullquote align=”right”]The only human trial achieved complete remission in 5 of 11 Crohn’s patients[/pullquote]The study also noted that marijuana seemed to improve appetite and sleep, and helped some patients wean themselves from steroid medications.
Steroids are commonly used to treat IBD, but can cause dependency as well as severe side effects.
But despite recommending that doctors consider marijuana for patients that aren’t responding to traditional treatments, the Israeli scientists agree that larger studies are necessary before medical marijuana can be widely recommended as a treatment for IBD.
The Brigham and Women’s Hospital study was published ahead of print. No sources of funding were reported