Find out what experts say about lighting up as a treatment option
.With medical marijuana becoming available in a growing number of states, patients with Crohn's disease may wonder if they should give it a try. Research has suggested that the potentially therapeutic compounds in the plant could indeed help with symptoms, but experts recommend that patients proceed with caution. "There really isn't data to tell us that it’s effective for Crohn's disease," says Mark Gerich, MD, assistant professor of gastroenterology and clinical director of the Crohn’s & Colitis Center at the University of Colorado in Aurora. Though people who use it often report improvement in pain or easing of diarrhea, there's no objective evidence that marijuana actually reduces the gut inflammation that's at the core of the disease. Here is what else you should know about using marijuana for Crohn's.
**Latest Research on Marijuana for Crohn’s**
A study published in August 2011 in the Israel Medical Association Journal presented the results of the first research to ever examine the use of cannabis in people with Crohn's. The 30 patients, who hadn't previously responded to standard treatments, all said their overall well-being improved with marijuana use. Two years later, the lead author and colleagues published the findings of another study in October 2013 in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, this time comparing the effectiveness of cannabis to a placebo in 21 patients. Over the course of two months, approximately half of them smoked marijuana cigarettes with THC, and the other half smoked placebo marijuana cigarettes with the THC removed. The people in the THC group experienced a greater improvement in symptoms during this time compared with the placebo group.Still, the treatment didn’t change the people's levels of a blood test marker for inflammation called C-reactive protein (CRP). "They did not have objective evidence of improvement," says Adam Cheifetz, MD, director of the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who was not involved in the study. Another problem was that most participants eventually figured out whether they were receiving the THC-containing cigarettes or the placebo. Dr. Cheifetz thinks that there's currently not enough data to prove that cannabis is an effective way of treating Crohn's disease.Waseem Ahmed, MD, internist with NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, shares this view, explaining that most studies on this topic have major flaws, such as small samples and brief follow-up periods.
**The Risks of Marijuana Use for Crohn’s**
Despite the risks, medical marijuana is available as a treatment option for patients with Crohn's in many of the 28 states that have legalized its use for medical purposes. If you're interested in obtaining cannabis for Crohn’s, the New York State Medical Marijuana Program's website says to consult your treating physician first. If your doctor is registered with a state medical marijuana program and agrees this is the appropriate treatment, you can get a certificate for it. If your physician isn’t registered, you can get referred to another doctor who is.
Once you have the certificate you will have to register with the state's medical marijuana program to obtain an ID that could then be used to obtain the marijuana from a dispensing facility.