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Possible Medical Marijuana Use for Digestive Disorders?

As more studies have demonstrated potential therapeutic applications for marijuana, public opinion regarding medical and recreational marijuana use has shifted. One such study recently published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology revealed medical marijuana is potentially beneficial for digestive disorders and gastrointestinal symptoms.

As more studies have demonstrated potential therapeutic applications for marijuana, public opinion regarding medical and recreational marijuana use has shifted. One such study recently published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology revealed medical marijuana is potentially beneficial for digestive disorders and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Mark E. Gerich, MD, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Colorado, and his colleagues have reviewed the current data supporting the use of marijuana to treat gastroenterologic conditions, as well as the medicolegal implications for physicians who would prescribe medicinal marijuana for treatment.

Experts have noted that 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) hold the most clinical importance as their effect on cannabinoid receptors are partly involved in the gastrointestinal tract. Specifically, these receptors are believed to “promote an inhibitory effect on motility and secretory function via reduced acetylcholine release,” according to the the American Journal of Gastroenterology article.

The study noted that the majority of Crohn’s disease (CD) or ulcerative colitis (UC) patients found monitored marijuana usage to significantly improve symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, and poor appetite.

As Gerich commented in an article on his team’s reasearch, “The clinical benefit of marijuana or its constituent phytocannabinoids for digestive disorders is unclear but it appears to have some benefit, at least, for gastrointestinal symptoms. Moreover, although legitimate concerns exist about the long-term safety of marijuana use, the safety profile of marijuana compares favorably to legal intoxicants like alcohol, opioids, and some existing therapies for digestive disorders.”

It is interesting to note that the research review indicated that more than 50% of gastrointestinal patients not using any marijuana would actually consider experimenting only if its legality expanded.

There are still various areas of medical marijuana use yet to be studied, but researchers found, “It appears to hold promise as a modifier of gastrointestinal symptoms. As medical marijuana use continues to grow in the United States, physicians must take the lead in understanding the risks and benefits in order to provide accurate information to patients,” Gerich said.