Many Australians with IBD use cannabis for symptom management – but their doctors aren’t convincedTwo recently published surveys on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and medicinal cannabis use – one of patients and one of gastroenterologists – conducted by the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics in partnership with prominent Australian IBD specialists, shine a new light on the potential for medicinal cannabis to manage symptoms of IBD, namely Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
IBD patientsThe IBD patient survey was published in April 2020 in Crohn’s and Colitis 360. This anonymous online survey of 838 Australians living with IBD explored their use of, and attitudes towards, medicinal cannabis. Current therapeutic options for IBD frequently leave patients with poor control over their symptoms and as a result they seek alternative treatment options like medicinal cannabis. The widespread community interest in cannabis for IBD arises from existing surveys, anecdotal reports of efficacy within the IBD community, some limited previous clinical trials, and reports of improvements in disorders with similar symptoms. IBD patients were recruited through advertisements on Australian IBD consumer networks, University websites, social media platforms, and by word-of-mouth. IBD patients were asked a series of 82 questions, comprising 7 IBD-specific questionnaires, as well as questions about their current and historical cannabis use.
25% of respondents had used cannabis to treat their IBD symptomsA total of 212 respondents reported using cannabis to treat their IBD symptoms at some point in time, of which 60 respondents were past users, and 152 respondents are present users. Medicinal cannabis is currently legal in Australia for medical use on prescription. However, only three respondents reported using a prescribed cannabis medicine, meaning that almost all IBD patients surveyed were using unregulated, illicit products. Most people got their cannabis from a recreational dealer (44.6%), and used a joint or bong to smoke their cannabis (46.7%).
IBD patients using cannabis are less likely to engage in mainstream therapiesPeople who reported current or past medicinal cannabis use were significantly more likely than non-medicinal cannabis users to:
- Be male (1.7 times as likely)
- Not be under the care of an IBD specialist (2.4 times as likely)
- Not be taking pharmaceutical treatments for IBD (2 times as likely)
- Have been hospitalised for their IBD (1.6 times as likely)
- Have been hospitalised >10 times in their life for IBD (1.7 times as likely)