Marijuana and Crohn's Disease

Research PaperDrugs
Nov 2, 2019

A research paper is a written coursework that discusses a specific topic by using information from credible scholarly sources . While its purposes vary, it usually seeks to inform, prove, expound, or explore an idea or claim. In this sample research paper, the author discusses the therapeutic effects of marijuana on the digestive condition known as Crohn’s disease.

Marijuana has faced a fluctuating history of prominence since the plant’s origin thousands of years ago. On the one hand, it was subjected to widespread prohibition for the most part of the 20th century, in large part because of its perceived harmful effects including drug abuse as well as the widespread social stigma of cannabis use. On the other hand, it has been partially accepted for marijuana’s positive effects that researchers have begun to discover through credible studies. Spurred on by these new findings, many efforts have been made towards the search for medical uses of marijuana , and among them is the attempt to establish the curative link between the substance and Crohn’s disease. Given recent notable advancements in medical findings regarding the use of the substance, it is imperative that there be widespread societal acceptance of marijuana in order to cure Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory diseases.

Crohn’s Disease Explained

Crohn’s disease is a chronic medical condition that causes inflammation in and around the digestive tract. What causes Crohn’s disease is unknown, although researchers theorize that it may be caused by the body’s immune system. In particular, researchers believe that there may be pathogens that trigger the immune system to mount a response that damages healthy cells. Several risk factors have also been identified such as age, family history, ethnicity, and lifestyle factors. Crohn’s disease is more prevalent among young people, those with family members who have the condition, whites, and smokers. The condition causes varying symptoms. These include abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, fatigue, and blood in the stool. The condition can also result in inflammation of the skin and eyes, mouth sores, and iron-deficiency anemia. As a chronic disease, its overall impact on the body may grow worse over time (Faubion, 2020). There is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease. Rather, treatment tends to be case-by-case basis, depending on the specific manifestations of the patient. Some common treatments include medications for relieving pain, managing inflammation, and suppressing the immune system; surgery for removing damaged tissue; and lifestyle changes (Roda et al., 2020; Fichera & Michelassi, 2007). Altogether, Crohn’s disease has a significantly adverse impact on the quality of life as frequently reported by those who have the condition.

Marijuana as Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

Multiple studies have shown that medical marijuana can benefit various illnesses. For instance, marijuana has been shown to aid in the treatment of cancer, HIV, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, pain, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease . As researchers continue to unlock the potential of the plant, it has been discovered to also have the potential to aid in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. The most cited curative link between marijuana and Crohn’s Disease stems from its anti-inflammatory effect due to compounds called cannabinoids. As Crohn’s disease is partly marked by inflammation within and around the digestive tract, the cannabinoids released by the consumption of marijuana may relieve inflammation (Crowell, 2017). Furthermore, among the cannabinoids in marijuana is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which has psychological effects. One of these is a significant increase in appetite, leading some medical researchers to further believe that marijuana is a suitable cure for Crohn's disease (Ciccone, 2017).

Studies have also directly observed marijuana’s effect on Crohn’s disease. A study by Kafil et al. (2018) supports the medicinal link between marijuana and Crohn’s disease. It compared the remission rates caused in each group consuming either cannabis sticks, cannabis oil, or a placebo to treat the condition. The remission rate is the percentage that shows how much of the symptoms of a condition have decreased. The group that consumed cannabis sticks has shown to have a greater remission rate than the group that took the placebo. The cannabis oil group, on the other hand, showed only minute differences in remission rate from the placebo group.

However, this study bears some flaws. It does not completely determine the medicinal link between marijuana and Crohn's disease. The researchers cannot accurately ascertain the causal link between the two and how exactly the consumption of cannabis sticks, and not cannabis oil, led to a higher remission rate. Furthermore, while the substance may have alleviated the inflammatory symptoms of the condition, it does not completely cover the disease as a whole. Crohn’s disease is marked by other symptoms as well. It may be that the consumption of cannabis sticks only resolves only the inflammatory symptoms of Crohn’s disease and not all its symptoms. Nevertheless, the findings of the study corroborate earlier experiments that found a link between marijuana and improvement in the condition of Crohn’s disease patients. One such study conducted by Naftali et al. (2013) found that THC-rich cannabis resulted in alleviation of symptoms in 10 of 11 patients as compared to the use of placebos.

Need for More Research

The glaring weakness of this study, and all similar studies on marijuana in general, is marked by the overall lack of research. Primarily, this is because of the widespread legal restraints across the United States. Marijuana is listed among the items considered as “gateway drugs” because it is feared that its use can lead to the use of other illicit drugs and substances. As a result, medical research on marijuana has been limited. Though there have been past attempts, they themselves are constrained due to a lack of medical precedents and supporting research. Any attempt to endorse marijuana as a medicine, even for Crohn’s disease alone, would have to face many legal, societal, and academic obstacles.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the difficulty in advancing marijuana as a medical drug is societal influence. Despite much evidence showing its usefulness, marijuana has seen many difficulties in being accepted by society as a whole. The concerns raised are legitimate: misuse of marijuana may have detrimental effects, to an extent. Such concerns, however, cannot discount the medical usability that marijuana is proven to have. Due to this, the acceptability of marijuana in society is a matter of forwarding progression rather than a mere shift. To accept it, in other words, is to bring general benefit. Crohn’s disease is only one among many diseases that have been shown to be curable or at least to have its symptoms improved by marijuana. While the lack of more conclusive evidence is a valid issue, it must serve as an impetus for more research in the field rather than a justification for dismissing marijuana as a whole.

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References

Ciccone, C. D. (2017). Medical marijuana: Just the beginning of a long, strange trip? Physical Therapy, 97(2), 239-248. https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20160367

Crowell, T. (2017). Therapeutic value of medical marijuana in New Jersey patients: A community partnership research endeavor. Journal of Allied Health, 46 (4), 232-240. PMID: 29202158

Faubion, W. (2020). Crohn’s disease. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/crohns-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353304

Fichera, A. & Michelassi, F. (2007). Surgical treatment of Crohn’s disease. Journal of Gastroenterology Surgery, 11, 791-803. doi.org/10.1007/s11605-006-0068-9

Kafil, T. S., Nguyen, T. M., MacDonald, J. K., & Chande, N. (2018). Cannabis for the treatment of Crohn's disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 11 (11). doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD012853.pub2

Naftali, T., Schleider, L. B., Lansky, E. P., Benjaminov, F. S., & Konikoff, F. M. (2013). Cannabis induces a clinical response in patients with Crohn’s disease: A prospective placebo-controlled study. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 11(10), 1276-1280. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2013.04.034

Roda, G., Ng, S. C., Kotze, P. G., Argollo, M., Panaccione, R., Spinelli, A., Kaser, A., Peyrin-Biroulet, L., & Danese, S. (2020). Nature Reviews Disease Primers, 6 , 22. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41572-020-0156-2

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