Background: The prevalence and perceived effectiveness of marijuana use has not been well studied in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) despite increasing legal permission for its use in Crohn's disease. Health care providers have little guidance about the IBD symptoms that may improve with marijuana use. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence, sociodemographic characteristics, and perceived benefits of marijuana use among patients with IBD.
Methods: Prospective cohort survey study of marijuana use patterns in patients with IBD at an academic medical center.
Results: A total of 292 patients completed the survey (response rate = 94%); 12.3% of patients were active marijuana users, 39.0% were past users, and 48.6% were never users. Among current and past users, 16.4% of patients used marijuana for disease symptoms, the majority of whom felt that marijuana was “very helpful” for relief of abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. On multivariate analysis, age and chronic abdominal pain were associated with current marijuana use (odds ratio [OR], 0.93; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.89–0.97; P < 0.001 and OR, 3.5; 95% CI, 1.24–9.82; P = 0.02). Age and chronic abdominal pain were also multivariate predictors of medicinal use of marijuana (OR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.89–0.97; P < 0.001 and OR, 4.7; 95% CI, 1.8–12.2; P = 0.001). Half of the never users expressed an interest in using marijuana for abdominal pain, were it legally available.
Conclusions: A significant number of patients with IBD currently use marijuana. Most patients find it very helpful for symptom control, including patients with ulcerative colitis, who are currently excluded from medical marijuana laws. Clinical trials are needed to determine marijuana's potential as an IBD therapy and to guide prescribing decisions.