Cannabis: Feel better, Worse Crohn Disease

To my amazement, the Georgia legislature has voted to eliminate all speed limits for those individuals with a gun permit.  After all, if you need a gun for self-defense, you might need to get somewhere quick to use it.  In addition, they have mandated that all dictionaries sold in the state to list “Obamacare” as an official synonym for the word “evil.”

The first part of this post is in jest. Today’s post is not all fiction:

While cannabis is not a frequent pediatric GI issue, it has received a lot of press of late.    A recent article has shown that cannabis is associated with worse disease prognosis in Crohn disease despite symptom relief (Inflamm Bowel Dis 2014; 20: 472-80).

Design: 313 consecutive patients (69% response of initial 461 distributed questionnaires) seen in Calgary (2008-2009) completed a structured anonymous questionnaire.  Subjects who had taken cannabis for IBD symptom relief were compared with those who had not.  Cannabis user had a mean age of 36.6 yrs compared with 40.2 yrs for nonusers.

Key findings:

  • Cannabis had been used by 17.6% of respondents to relieve IBD symptoms, mostly by inhalation (96%).  It reportedly improved abdominal pain, joint pain, and diarrhea.
  • The use of cannabis for more than 6 months at any time for IBD symptoms was a strong predictor of requiring surgery (odds ratio =5.03) after controlling for other demographic factors including tobacco smoking.


  1. Questionnaire honesty, though authors indicate several reasons why the number of cannabis users is likely fairly accurate.
  2. Previous surgery was higher in the cannabis users.  It is possible that patients with greater disease severity take cannabis more frequently; in this situation, cannabis would be a marker of disease severity rather than a potentially causative factor.
  3. The average patient had long-standing disease, >13 years.  Cannabis could potentially be more helpful (or less harmful) at an earlier inflammatory stage.

The study findings are in contrast to a small study previously reviewed on this blog which indicated that cannabis may improve Crohn disease: Crohn’s Research: Going to Pot | gutsandgrowth.

Take home message: For those of you planning to move to Colorado, cannabis does not cure all ills.  In this single center, tertiary care study, it was associated with a worse prognosis in adults with Crohn disease.

5 thoughts on “Cannabis: Feel better, Worse Crohn Disease

  1. It’s so hard to really know with so little medical study done due to the schedule and stigma! I hope we get some real studies in the U.S. My little girl has Crohn’s and the drugs she has to take are killing her little liver. It’s a horrible disease.

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