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A New Study Finds That Cannabis Is Linked to Reduced Pain for Ulcerative Colitis Patients

May 11, 2021 10:30 am ET
A New Study Finds That Cannabis Is Linked to Reduced Pain for Ulcerative Colitis Patients

For many individuals suffering under conditions that are treated with insufficient pharmaceuticals, cannabis has been an effective means for symptomatic relief. Many who suffer from ulcerative colitis have failed to see improvements in their conditions by means of conventional, or pharmaceutical, medication. Fortunately, The Jerusalem Post has reported results that revealed cannabis being linked to reduced pain in ulcerative colitis patients. The post explained that 90% of the patients who suffer from ulcerative colitis “reported decreased stomach pain after using medical cannabis”. In order to better understand this potential, let’s get a better understanding of the condition first. 

What Do We Know About Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can produce inflammation and ulcers (sores) in your digestive tract. This condition affects the innermost lining of your large intestine, or colon, as well as rectum. As with most other conditions, the symptoms of ulcerative colitis symptoms can vary from person to person and depending on the severity of the inflammation. It’s a chronic condition that affects the colon and is similar to Crohn’s disease. To learn more about ulcerative colitis and the symptoms associated with it, check out our condition page here

Doctors make use of a classification system based on the location of the ulcerative colitis and include the following:

  • Ulcerative Proctitis: This is when inflammation is confined to the closest area to the rectum. For this classification, rectal bleeding may be the only indication of ulcerative colitis.
  • Proctosigmoiditis: This is when the inflammation involves the rectum and sigmoid colon. For this classification, the signs and symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and pain as well as the inability to move the bowels.
  • Left-sided Colitis: This is when inflammation extends from the rectum to the sigmoid colon and to the descending colon. For this classification, the signs and symptoms include bloody diarrhea, cramping, and pain on the left side as well as the urgency to defecate.
  • Pancolitis: This is when the inflammation affects the entire colon which causes bouts of bloody diarrhea as well as more severe cramps, pain, fatigue as well as significant weight loss.

What Does This New Study Say About Ulcerative Colitis Pain and Cannabis? 

An Israeli medical giant, Tikun Olam, conducted a new study in order to understand the benefits of medical cannabis for patients with ulcerative colitis. The study made use of a “double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study” which is peer-reviewed and has been published for open access. The study involved doctors at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba. These doctors tested 32 ulcerative colitis patients who have “failed to respond to previously prescribed treatments”. 

The Jerusalem Post explains that the currently prescribed treatments can send the condition into remission for around 50-60% of the patients but the rest do not respond positively. This inflammatory bowel disease became one of the first types of diseases to be approved for cannabis treatment in Israel. The study conducted by Tikun Olam has found that 62% of the “respondents saw an improvement in bowel activity, 54% saw a decrease in disease severity, 27% experienced an increase in life quality when compared to the placebo group”. 

In this study, the participants were unaware of whether they belonged to the control group which received the placebo or whether they belonged to the group receiving the active compounds of cannabis. The control group received cannabis cigarettes, or joints, which did not have any of the active cannabis compounds. While the treatment group received joins which contained one gram of cannabis with a quantity of 16% THC. The medical cannabis being used belonged to Tikun Olam’s signature strain known as Erez. 

Erez is an indica-dominant hybrid with a THC range between 15-18%. The strain is said to produce “strong effects intended to relieve severe pain and reduce symptoms linked to neurological disorders” as well as alleviating inflammation and nausea while improving appetite. In the study, the patients who received the Erez strain reported “improved appetite and focus, increased sex drive and a decrease in pain”. 

Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider, the head of research and development at Tikun Olam, told The Jerusalem Post that “someone who suffers from a serious case of colitis will often have a spare piece of underwear in their bag”. This is due to the fact that these individuals have several liquid bowel movements in a day and are “often unable to work in professions or go to areas without proper access to bathrooms”. 

Individuals with ulcerative colitis have a significantly decreased quality of life as they avoid situations where they would not have immediate access to a bathroom when needed. Schleider continued by stating that “seventeen of the study participants continued using cannabis and reported results to the hospital for an additional year after the study” and that they “found their endoscopic scores to drop dramatically over time”. Unfortunately, the problem is that the yearlong study “doesn’t have a placebo group” and that “it would be unethical to keep someone using a placebo for an entire year while they have a condition like this”. 

Despite the problem in assessing the efficacy of cannabis against a controlled group for a year-long period, the study itself resulted in a promise of cannabis as an effective means of providing relief for ulcerative colitis- especially since conventional means of treatments have been so ineffective. 

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