Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana Has Minimal Impact on Use Patterns in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Merker AM1, Riaz M1, Friedman S1, Allegretti JR1, Korzenik J1. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2018 May 18. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izy141. [Epub ahead of print]

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1 Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Endoscopy, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


BACKGROUND: Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have reported use of marijuana to treat symptoms of the disease, yet its classification as a Schedule 1 substance by the federal government has restricted its use. In 2012, Massachusetts legalized medicinal marijuana. We aimed to assess the impact of legalization on use in IBD.

METHODS: Consecutive patients with IBD, cared for at a tertiary care center in Boston, were surveyed regarding use of marijuana, including its perceived benefits and attitudes. Data were then compared with results of a similar survey study conducted at our center in 2012, before marijuana's legalization.

RESULTS: The survey was completed by 302 patients. There was a significant increase in marijuana use overall from 12.3% in 2012 to 22.8% in 2017 (P < 0.001). However, there was no significant increase in medicinal use from 2012 to 2017. On bivariate analysis, severe disease, as assessed by SIBDQ score, prior hospitalization, biologic therapy use, prior surgery, and chronic abdominal pain, was found to be more predictive of medicinal use now than in 2012. Among patients surveyed who have never used marijuana, 39.4% reported being interested in using medicinal marijuana, and 54.3% indicated that legalization did not affect their likelihood of using medicinal marijuana.

CONCLUSIONS: In an IBD tertiary care center, we identified an overall upward trend in marijuana use but no significant change in medicinal use since its legalization in 2012. Our data suggests that the legalization of medical marijuana has resulted in an insignificant change in medicinal marijuana use in this population.

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