Marijuana Helping Patients in Florida With Crohn’s Disease?
There’s no way around it, Crohn’s Disease is awful. It can interfere with daily life in a very extreme and intrusive way, causing severe pain and many an urgent trip to the bathroom. Many Crohn’s patients don’t respond to conventional treatments or have trouble managing the severe side effects of immunosuppressant drugs. So, they turn to cannabis. But, can medical marijuana Doctors in Florida prescribe meds that really send Crohn’s into remission? How does it help the disease? Here’s what the current research has to say.
WHAT IS CHRON’S DISEASE?
Crohn’s Disease is an irritable bowel disease with an unknown cause. Yet, the primary culprit is inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This can be anywhere from your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and the large intestine (colon).
However, the most commonly affected regions are the ileum, which is the very last part of the small intestine, and the first portion of the colon.
The standard theory about Crohn’s Disease is that it involves genetic irregularities in the programming for the immune system. These irregularities can be triggered by environmental factors.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can vary depending on where you have the disease. But, some of the most common include:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe diarrhea
- Bloody stool
- Wasting (difficulty keeping on weight due to lack of nutrient absorption)
Crohn’s Disease is still largely misunderstood. But, as mentioned earlier, inflammation is the major trigger for many of the most debilitating symptoms. When the GI tract is continuously inflamed, the body cannot properly absorb the nutrients it needs to survive. This leads to all sorts of short and long-term problems. Contact a medical marijuana doctor in Florida today to get started.
Many conventional Crohn’s drugs seek to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system, which is continually attacking the gut.
Researchers think that this is where cannabis can help. Compounds in the herb called cannabinoids have immunomodulatory effects. They prevent the immune system from releasing pro-inflammatory proteins and trigger anti-inflammatory compounds instead.
The herb has this effect because it engages a large network in the body known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS consists of a series of cell receptors, their corresponding molecules, and the proteins that make and break down these molecules.
Cannabinoid receptors are found all throughout the gastrointestinal tract. They are specifically found on immune cells, indicating that the ECS is important for immune function.
Patients with irritable bowel disease produce fewer endocannabinoids, the body’s natural THC.
They also state that certain cannabinoid receptors are overexpressed (upregulated). Upregulation is a sign that the intestinal tract is calling out for more cannabinoid inputs.
Scientists are far from pinpointing exactly how the endocannabinoid system is implicated in Crohn’s. Yet, the current discoveries on the subject hint that cannabinoid therapies are serious contenders in the treatment of the disease.
The Risks of Marijuana Use for Crohn’s
Cannabis use also comes with certain risks. For one, its reduction in symptoms may mask ongoing inflammation, making patients think their disease is in remission when it’s not, according to Dr. Ahmed’s paper published in November 2016 in the journal Gastroenterology & Hepatology. And a study published in March 2014 in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases showed that cannabis use might actually increase the risk of surgery in people with Crohn’s. Marijuana use also entails a risk of dependence, psychosis and — with long-term use — neurocognitive impairment. He therefore suggests that it should only be reserved for controlling pain or symptoms in patients who do not respond to other types of treatment.
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 marijuana 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 Stewart, MD, assistant professor of gastroenterology and clinical director of the Crohn’s & Colitis Center in Colorado. 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 use.
Obtaining Medical Marijuana to Treat 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 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.