Inflammatory bowel disease (or IBD) is a modern-day medical issue that afflicts around 1.6 million people in the U.S. alone, manifesting as either Crohn’s Disease or Colitis
While anti-inflammatory drugs are the standard prescription, these drugs only manage the symptoms in the short term, leaving patients in clear need of an alternative, effective intervention. Could cannabis help?
There are two manifestations of IBD – Ulcerative Colitis, which only affects the colon, and Crohn’s Disease, which may involve inflammation of any part of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the mouth, esophagus, stomach and anus. It is thought that IBD is a result of both genetic and environmental factors, with diet – particularly a high-protein diet – significantly associated with the condition.
While there is no known cure, patients who suffer from IBD have to rely on a wide range of drugs to try and stem the inflammatory process and manage other symptoms such as pain. The standard treatment for IBD consists of various anti-inflammatory agents, such as 5-aminosalicylic acid, along with antibiotics, since bacterial infections are also often at play in the condition.
However, despite the impressive list of drugs used to manage IBD, patients rarely experience a consistent and sustainable remission. Corticosteroids, the most potent agents, achieve a remission rate of up to 80%, but due to significant side effects cannot be used long-term.
Recent promising studies prompted Timna Naftali MD and Fred M. Konikoff MD to become interested in the potential role of cannabis and cannabinoids in IBD. They state in their paper that, after finding zero results of cannabis being studied in humans with IDB in a PubMed search in 2009, along with the increasing demand for prescriptions of medical cannabis from patients with IDB, they would undertake an observational study of the use of cannabis in treating IBD in Israel.
Until the results are published, we can take optimism from the fact that the use of cannabis is common in IBD, with many anecdotes complementing the results of the studies outlined above. How cannabis achieves these effects is yet unconfirmed, but thanks to determined scientists like Naftali and Konikoff, huge strides are being taken to find out and the future looks less bleak for sufferers of IBD.[Image credit: Pixabay]