Marijuana, cannabis, marijuana, pot, weed - no matter what it is called, marijuana has been demonized for years as being an evil drug. Despite positive research from institutes of study in many countries, medical marijuana (not to be confused with cannabis for recreational use) is still a matter of strong debate. Oddly enough, the debate is hottest not between the general citizens of a country, but between the medical community and the respective governments.
In places where using medical marijuana is legal, studies are ongoing and often produce results that surprise many in the medical community. Others feel the results only serve to enforce the belief that marijuana is not the demon plant propaganda has said it is.
Canadians and Crohn's Disease
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (related to Crohn's disease) are serious problems for more over 170,000 Canadians. In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the world. Sufferers may have persistent diarrhea, fever, cramping and abdominal pain, and rectal bleeding. Many lose their appetite, which can cause unhealthy weight loss, while some are plagued by nausea and vomiting. Crohn's disease can affect the joints, liver, skin and eyes, as well, and commonly causes great fatigue.
Crohn's disease is chronic; periods of remission are mixed with periods of intense activeness. Unfortunately, the medical community has been unable to find the cause of this disease, although they believe it has to do with an overactive immune system, initially triggered by outside influences. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) states:
"Many scientists now believe that the interaction of an outside agent (such as a virus or bacterium) with the body's immune system may trigger the disease, or that such an agent may cause damage to the intestinal wall, initiating or accelerating the disease process."
They further state that, "Because there is no cure for Crohn's disease, the goal of medical treatment is to suppress the inflammatory response. This step accomplishes two important goals: It allows the intestinal tissue to heal and it also relieves the symptoms of fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Once the symptoms are brought under control (this is known as inducing remission), medical therapy is used to decrease the frequency of disease flares (this is known as maintaining remission, or maintenance)." - CCFA
Medicinal Therapy for Crohn's Disease
Much of the traditional medication (the medical therapy mentioned by CCFA) used to treat Crohn's disease includes a mixture of anti-inflammatory, antibodies, immune modifiers/suppressants and corticosteroids. Indeed, traditional medical treatments become a cornucopia of pharmaceutical concoctions.
As with most man-made medicinal products, each treatment also causes its own symptoms. For instance, the immunosuppressive medicines can cause nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Steroids also cause these symptoms, with the addition of anxiety and depression, as well as bone thinning, peptic ulcers and other issues with prolonged usage.
Mesalamine, an anti-inflammatory, can cause mild side effects like hair loss, headaches and itching. However, it can also cause severe side effects such as pancreatitis, blood disorders, fatigue and tremors. Kidney dysfunction and IBD-like symptoms are also possible.
Medical Marijuana for Canadian Crohn's Disease Sufferers
Thanks to a number of organizations, medical institutes and studies, Canada has relaxed the laws on medical marijuana. It is legal for Canadian Crohn's disease suffers to have a medical marijuana excemption with a written doctor's prescription.
Many studies have proven that medical marijuana helps as an anti-inflammatory. Users of medical marijuana for Crohn's disease found themselves able to reduce - if not eliminate - the need for steroid treatment and to reduce the immunosuppressive medications, as well as Mesalamine.
A study in 2005 by the University of Bath in England noted that "some extracts from cannabis, known as cannabinoids, closely resemble molecules that occur naturally in our body, and by developing treatments that target this system, we can help the body recover from some of the effects of these diseases." Although the University doesn't condone or support the use of medical marijuana, they are focusing on more research to narrow down the actual effects of cannabinoids on Crohn's disease.
For actual Crohn's disease sufferers, however, the evidence is overwhelming. A pilot study by the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, reported at the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine with the following results:
"For all signs and symptoms [of Crohn's disease] evaluated in the study, the patients described marked improvements with the use of cannabis. Beneficial effects were reported for appetite, pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, activity, and depression. Patients also reported that cannabis use resulted in weight gain, fewer stools per day and fewer flare-ups of less severity."
Medical marijuana has been used to increase appetite, decrease depression, anxiety, vomiting and weight loss, as well as used as a pain suppressant for many individuals with other diseases. Multiple sclerosis, chronic pain sufferers and cancer patients have all found these benefits with the use of medical marijuana. Therefore, it is no surprise that cannabis is also being used by Canadians who suffer from Crohn's disease for the same symptoms.