Cannabis Use in Persons With Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Vulnerability to Substance Misuse

Hansen TM1, Sabourin BC2, Oketola B1, Bernstein CN1,3, Singh H1, Targownik LE4. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2019 Nov 14. pii: izz272. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izz272. [Epub ahead of print]


Author information

Section of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Department of Clinical Health Psychology, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

University of Manitoba IBD Clinical and Research Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Division of Gastroenterology, University of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


BACKGROUND: It is unknown whether cannabis users self-medicating their inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms are more likely to have comorbid mental health or personality risk factors associated with an increased potential for substance misuse compared with recreational cannabis users.

METHODS: We surveyed individuals with IBD about their cannabis use, their mental health symptoms, and personality risk factors associated with substance misuse. We compared risk factors for substance misuse between individuals using cannabis to manage IBD symptoms and those using cannabis recreationally.

RESULTS: Of 201 persons with IBD who completed the questionnaire, 108 reported lifetime cannabis use. Of those, a larger proportion of Crohn's disease patients used cannabis to manage IBD symptoms (53% [34/64] vs 28% [12/43]; P = 0.010). Individuals self-medicating with cannabis were more likely to use cannabis for coping reasons (P = 0.016) and demonstrated higher levels of impulsivity (P = 0.004) and depressive symptoms (P = 0.012) when compared with individuals using cannabis recreationally. Logistic regression revealed that cannabis was 4.1 times (P = 0.05) and 3.7 times (P = 0.05) more likely to be used for IBD symptoms by smokers and individuals with moderate-severe depressive symptoms, respectively. Individuals high in impulsivity were 4.1 times more likely to use cannabis for their IBD symptoms than those low in impulsivity (P = 0.005).

CONCLUSIONS: Persons with IBD self-medicating with cannabis have characteristics associated with increased vulnerability to substance misuse when compared with those using cannabis recreationally. Screening for mental health comorbidities and vulnerability to substance misuse should be undertaken if cannabis is to be used to treat IBD symptoms.

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