Study: Long-Term Cannabis Use Associated with Clinical Improvements in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Tel Aviv, Israel: The long-term use of whole-plant cannabis is associated with both symptom improvement and the reduced use of prescription medications in patients with treatment-resistant inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to clinical data in The European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

Israeli researchers assessed the long-term effects of daily cannabis use in 127 patients diagnosed with intractable IBD. Most of the subjects in the study suffered from either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Just under 70 percent of the study’s subjects consumed herbal preparations of cannabis.

Investigators reported that patients’ overall symptoms improved significantly over a median period of 44 months and that subjects typically consumed 30 grams of cannabis per month to achieve a therapeutic benefit.

They reported: "We found that most of the patients were satisfied with medical cannabis treatment and experienced prolonged improvement in disease-related symptoms, specifically abdominal pain and number of bowel movements per day. Improvement was also supported by the significant decrease in the clinically based Harvey-Bradshaw disease activity index."

Researchers further reported that cannabis therapy was associated with a significant reduction in patients’ consumption of prescription medications, as well as weight gain and the increased likelihood of full-time employment.

"Our findings … demonstrate that the clinical improvement achieved with medical cannabis treatment was also associated with improvements in patients’ daily functioning," they concluded. "In summary, this study presents a real-life cohort of long-term cannabis users with IBD. In this cohort, cannabis resulted in improvements in symptoms and general functioning. Long-term side-effects were mild, and optimal doses were defined. … [C]annabis is used by many IBD patients, and our real-life data provide us with important information which can guide the management of these patients until more information is available."

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director. Full text of the study, "Medical cannabis for inflammatory bowel disease: Real-life experience of mode of consumption and assessment of side effects," appears in The European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Additional information on the use of cannabis in patients with IBD is available from NORML.