Zieve’s Syndrome and Medical Cannabis

Sarah Walker

by Sarah Walker

July 30, 2020 05:32 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes
Medically reviewed by Dr. Abraham Benavides Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho

Acute alcoholic hepatitis, also called Zieve’s Syndrome (ZS), is a “largely under-recognized and under-reported” condition according to a 2015 ACG Case Report Journal study. Zieve’s syndrome may be recurrent, and completely abstaining from alcohol is necessary for those suffering from it. Researchers in the medical journal Cureus further describe Zieve’s syndrome as a triad of conditions, including jaundice, hemolytic anemia, and hyperlipidemia.  

Symptoms of the condition include abdominal pain, nausea, and other nonspecific symptoms. Treatment includes supportive management care, blood transfusions, and alcohol abstinence. Meanwhile, medical cannabis proves to ease jaundice, one of the conditions in the triad that make up Zieve’s syndrome. 

Jaundice develops because the chemical bilirubin does not correctly break down in the liver and has several symptoms that are eased by medical cannabis. Because medical cannabis proves to alleviate autoimmune disease symptoms, it may relieve health issues related to jaundice like abdominal pain and itching.  

Zieve’s Syndrome Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Cureus reports that the disease is directly caused by excessive alcohol abuse, and Zieve’s syndrome must be treated in a timely manner. “Even though ZS is rarely reported, it should be suspected in patients with worsening hemolytic anemia with no apparent explanation, especially in alcoholics,” reports Cureus. “Being aware of ZS can limit workup, cost and help avoid using unnecessary drugs that can worsen the condition.” As noted, the only treatment for the condition is hospital care and blood transfusions that help lessen the syndrome. 

Zieve’s Syndrome and Cannabinoids 

Medical cannabis is an option for easing the symptoms that occur with Zieve’s syndrome, including pain and nausea. The journal PAIN reports that “medical cannabis patients, including two-thirds with chronic pain, report health benefits including improved pain management and sleep.”  

Healthline cites evidence that medical cannabis eases chronic pain from the article “Qualifying Conditions of Medical Cannabis License Holders in the United States,” published in 2019 in the journal Health Affairs. The study shows that more than 62% of chronic pain patients use medical cannabis for relief. “The data showed that 85.5 percent of these people with a license to take medical marijuana were using it to seek treatment for ‘evidence-based conditions,'” reports Healthline. “Chronic pain stood at the top of the list, with 62.2 percent of people using it to treat their enduring pain.”

Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., lead author of the study, said “the findings were significant in adding to our current understanding of how medical marijuana is used,” adding that “this was important because medical marijuana remains a ‘controversial and polarizing topic.”‘

Medical cannabis also eases nausea, another uncomfortable condition of Zieve’s syndrome. The American Cancer Society reported in 2017 that cannabis helped treat chemotherapy-induced nausea, and that “a few studies have found that inhaled (smoked or vaporized) marijuana can be helpful treatment of neuropathic pain (pain caused by damaged nerves).” While Zieve’s is a rare and understudied condition, there is research to support that some of the symptoms of the condition may be eased by properties of medical cannabis. 

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