Crohn's disease, an autoimmune disease for which there is no cure, has a significant impact on quality of life. While many types of medications can help prevent or control the symptoms of the disease, undesirable effects, such as weakening of the bones and increased vulnerability to infections, often occur when those medications are used.
Study Findings Show Promise
Recognizing the need for new treatments that relieve symptoms with as few side effects as possible, researchers at Meir Medical Center in Israel examined the effects of the marijuana plant Cannabis sativa on patients with severe Crohn's disease. Published in the journal "Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology" in October 2013, the study involved 21 patients with severe Crohn's disease. Of those 21 patients, 11 patients smoked two joints a day for eight weeks. The other 10 patients were given a placebo.
In total, five of the 11 patients (45 percent) who smoked marijuana daily achieved total remission of their symptoms. They also reported improved appetites and sleep patterns with no significant side effects. Moreover, a clinical response--a detectable change in patients' signs and symptoms--was found in 10 of those patients (90 percent). A clinical response was found in only four of the 10 patients (40 percent) given a placebo.
It is believed marijuana's anti-inflammatory effects may be responsible for these results. The plant's constituent molecules kill bacteria, which may play a role in Crohn's disease. A study by researchers at Technische Universität München (TUM) in Germany and published in the journal "Gut" in April 2015 has shown that bacteria in the intestines can lead to an inflammation similar to Crohn's disease.
Crohn's Disease Patient Faces Prison Sentence for Marijuana Use
Despite growing evidence of marijuana's ability to provide relief from Crohn's disease symptoms, medical use of marijuana remains illegal in some states. Shona Banda, a Kansas mother who uses marijuana oil as therapy for Crohn's disease, recently had her home searched by the Garden City Police Department after her son's school reported comments he made in favor of marijuana during an anti-drug presentation. She is also fighting for custody of her son after the Department of Children and Families took him from her home, saying her use of marijuana to control her debilitating illness was putting the child in danger.
Banda was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2000 and began using marijuana oil as therapy for her symptoms in 2009. She claims marijuana has worked better than prescribed medicines. Banda and her son previously resided in Colorado, where marijuana is legal for recreational use. However, possession of marijuana is illegal in Kansas and can result in a year of jail time and a $1,000 fine, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. A bill that allows patients to use marijuana oil is advancing in the Kansas state legislature, according to the Kansas City Star. If it passes, Kansas will join 23 states that currently have laws allowing medical marijuana use.
Crohn's disease affects an estimated 700,000 Americans and conventional medicines often offer little relief. Medical marijuana offers hope and may relieve symptoms more effectively than standard treatment. Legalization of marijuana for medical use could make it easier for patients with Crohn's disease to benefit from the therapeutic effects of marijuana without breaking the law. Many patients who could greatly benefit from medical marijuana are being denied access to the therapy, which is a problem HelloMD hopes to see change as the medicinal benefits of marijuana become more legitimized.