In the U.S. alone, there are roughly 800,000 people affected with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), that affects the body by causing inflammation in the digestive tract. The result of this is severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and extreme fatigue. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated that as many as three million adults in the U.S. suffer from IBD. Researchers believe that cannabis can be used as a remedy for the treatment of Crohn’s disease.

The root causes of Crohn’s disease are still uncertain. But, many physicians feel it could likely be caused by an abnormal response to the immune system. While there are a number of pharmaceutical treatments available for the disease, scientists are now hoping that cannabis can provide another option for patients to find relief from this debilitating illness.  

The cause for Crohn’s disease is still heavily debated among researchers. But, there is much evidence supporting the idea that the immune system is what triggers Crohn’s disease. In the gut, good bacteria and food are attacked by the immune system, which leads to inflammation.

People diagnosed with Crohn’s disease are often severely impacted it and unable to lead a normal life. As the disease progresses, people must visit the doctor with increasing frequency. Quality of life is impacted and an active lifestyle that many people take for granted is often unattainable for the Crohn’s patient.  The ability to work is also very often affected for someone who has this disease. 

There is an array of signs and symptoms that range from mild to severe. For some people, the symptoms develop gradually, while for others, the onset is sudden. During an active episode, many sufferers can experience fatigue, fever, blood in the stool, mouth sores, loss of appetite and weight loss, and pain around the anal area.

In more severe cases, there may be inflammation of the eyes, joints, and skin. Sometimes there is inflammation in the bile ducts or liver.

There are different methods and treatments available. Each patient’s requirements are different. The reason is that IBD affects people in different ways is because it attacks different parts of the body, so no two people are affected in precisely the same way. Doctors frequently prescribe one or more of an array of anti-inflammatory drugs to attempt to reduce the symptoms.

A study was published in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hematology that presents the effects of cannabis on the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

In the study, there were 21 patients with a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. 13 were men and 8 were women, all with an average age of 40. Every patient in the study had previously attempted to treat their disease with anti-tumor agents, steroid therapy, and immunomodulators.  None of the participants in the study reported having had any success with these methods. For the study, the patients were divided into two groups. The trial lasted for 10 weeks and included 8 weeks of treatment with a two-week follow-up at the end. One group was provided with cannabis containing 115mg of THC and was instructed to smoke it twice a day. The other group was given the same instructions, but the cannabis they received did not contain any THC.

The results of the study were remarkable. In the THC group, 5 of 11 patients experience total remission of their symptoms. In the same group, 10 of the 11 patients saw their Crohn’s Disease Activity Index decrease from 200 to 100. Members of this group also reported improved sleep as well as an increase in appetite. The researchers credit THC for the improvements that the study participants experienced. The human body naturally produces THC, via the endocannabinoid system. People who have Crohn’s Disease have lower levels of endocannabinoids than those who don’t have the condition. Cannabis appears to provide cannabinoids which help reduce the inflammation that triggers any one of a number of Crohn’s disease symptoms. Despite this being a very small study exploring the effects of cannabis on Chron’s Disease, it provides results that shouldn’t be dismissed and that may give hope to the many sufferers of this life-altering and often debilitating disease.