Cannabis Sativa Flowers

Medical Marijuana for Pancreatitis

Update September 2015

While there is still a troubling lack of scientific studies on the effectiveness of medical marijuana for CP, anecdotal feedback among the pancreatitis patient community suggests that some people have found it helpful in coping with pain, nauseau, or sleep problems, as well as lessening the stress and anxiety associated with chronic pain.  Others do not find such relief or simply do not like the psychotropic effects of marijuana.  Also anecdotally, pancreatitis specialists seem more open to patients experimenting with marijuana, likely figuring that the risks are much less than prescription opiates.

The National Cancer Institute recently issued a report on cannabis and cannabinoids meant for health professionals.  (Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in marijuana, which can be isolated and administered in pill, liquid or other forms.)  The ultimate conclusion was that “At present, there is insufficient evidence to recommend inhaling Cannabis as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms or cancer treatment–related side effects.”  However, the report did include some points relevant to our inquiry (largely from animal or small-scale human studies):

  • Cannabinoids may protect against certain tumors:  “Cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death.”
  • A mouse study suggested that cannabinoids may protect against inflammation in the colon.
  • Smoking marijuana may help with pain:  “Two randomized controlled trials of inhaled Cannabis in patients with peripheral neuropathy or neuropathic pain of various [causes] found that pain was reduced in patients who received inhaled Cannabis, compared with those who received placebo.”
  • There is conflicting evidence about whether marijuana helps with nausea and vomiting — one study showed no effect and the other helped 25% of patients.
  •  In very small studies (one had five people), “patients administered THC had improved mood, improved sense of well-being, and less anxiety,” as well as improved sleep.
  • Marijuana won’t kill you.  In sharp contrast to opiates often prescribed for pain, “lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur.”
  • Some consider marijuana addictive, but “their addictive potential is considerably lower than that of other prescribed agents or substances of abuse.”

These findings certainly suggest that the medical profession should give marijuana very serious consideration for treating pancreatitis — especially since there is virtually no risk of overdose and a relatively low risk of addiction…much less than pain medications of choice like oxycodone.

With more states legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, and with bipartisan bills pending in Congress to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level, hopefully scientific studies are on the way.  Certainly CP patients living in medical marijuana states might want to address the issue with their doctor.  (You can find a table of state medical marijuana laws here.)

Below is the original article from 2013:

One of the biggest challenges with pancreatitis is pain management.  Those who suffer from chronic pancreatitis are often prescribed strong pain medications such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.  Prescription painkillers are highly addictive and are responsible for over 15,000 deaths a year, amounting to a “public health epidemic” according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Concerns about overuse of painkillers are mounting, and the FDA and states are considering restrictions on their availability.   (CNN:  FDA Advisory Panel Votes to Tighten Restrictions on Hydrocodone)

Cannabis Sativa Flowers

Cannabis Sativa Flowers (source: Wikipedia)

Medical marijuana is obviously gaining in acceptability and availability around the U.S. While some disagree over the long-term health effects, by any measure marijuana is much less dangerous than prescription painkillers.  Recently, there have also been reports that cannabinoids (the principal active ingredients in marijuana) can not only help with pain management, but may be able to help with other symptoms (such as spasticity with multiple sclerosis) or even have the potential to stop tumor progression in certain cancers. (See an article by Dr. Sanjay Gupta supporting use of medical marijuana — “Why I Changed My Mind on Weed.”)

Whether medical marijuana can help people with pancreatitis is therefore of serious interest.  Unfortunately, few studies have been done and it is difficult to find a strong (informed) opinion either for or against.

There are, however, some studies that bear on the subject.  First, it seems that excessive marijuana use can cause acute pancreatitis.  Reports are rare but doctors seem confident in the cause.  

Second, there are some studies (mostly with mice) suggesting that certain cannabinoids can reduce inflammation in the pancreas:

Perhaps most relevant to those of us with chronic pancreatitis, a 2008 German study of isolated cells of patients with chronic pancreatitis found that introduction of cannabinoids can reduce inflammation and prevent fibrosis, or scarring According to the authors, the results suggested that “(re-)activation of the (endo-) cannabinoid system in chronic pancreatitis may be beneficial for suppressing disease progress” (parentheses are theirs).    Find it here:  Cannabinoids reduce markers of inflammation and fibrosis in pancreatic stellate cells

And just to confuse matters, one study found that cannabinoids make acute pancreatitis worse in the early stage and can help at later stages:  Dual, time-dependent deleterious and protective effect of anandamide on the course of cerulein-induced acute pancreatitis.

Clearly more research is needed.  If there is a better route than reliance on addictive, potentially deadly prescription painkillers, pancreatitis patients need to know it.

At least one politician endorses medical marijuana for pancreatitis…as an alibi:  Former House Minority Leader says marijuana is recognized as a treatment for his pancreas pain.

Update August 2013:

A report by the Controlled Substances and Tobacco Directorate at Health Canada found that studies on cannabinoids’ effect on pancreatitis were conflicting:

There are only a handful of reports on the effects of cannabinoids in experimental animal models of acute or chronic pancreatitis, and the findings from these reports are conflicting. Thus, the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of acute or chronic pancreatitis remains unclear.

The report concluded that “These contradictory findings may be due to differences in experimental methods, differences in timing of drug administration, differences in the types of agonists and antagonists that were used, differences in the route of administration, and differences in animal species.”

Time for a rigorous, controlled human study in a state where medical marijuana is legal (California?).

 

17 replies
  1. Corina
    Corina says:

    I have at points taken a few to many painkillers and almost losr my life so i started smoking and a small amoint in a instanr kills pain nausea and stress ! It helps much better ive had pain 22 years cronic pancreatitis

    Reply
    • Mandy
      Mandy says:

      I have been suffering for about 4 months now and because of insurance issues, I can’t see a GI dr until August 10th but my husband and I have done a lot of reading on my symptoms and it strongly points to pancreatitis and I desperately need relief! Have you found a method that’s more effective to treat your symptoms? Smoking pot or consuming it? Also if there are any other at home tips you could give me would be greatly appreciated!

      Reply
      • Frc
        Frc says:

        I have seriously been sick almost everyday for three years from pacnritits.I just drinking it instead of smoking “hashish oil” in my herbal teas..and have impoverished “good afects to it..then schedule 1 drugs for pancreatic problems….2015 frc..

        Reply
      • Felix
        Felix says:

        A hot water bag and different weeds drunk as tea (sorry, i don´t know the weeds in your language: in german it´s : 3 Teile Käsepappel, 3 Teile Löwenzahn, 3 Teile Odermennig, 3 Teile zerriebener Maiendistelsamen, 2 Teile Mistel, 1 Teil Ringelblume, 1 Teil Schafgarbe, 1 Teil Spitzwegerich, 1 Teil Tausendguldenkraut.

        Greets from Germany

        Reply
  2. Jason A.J.
    Jason A.J. says:

    I was recently diagnosed with pancreatitis. I have respected the plant since age 16(now I’m 48). However, I don’t feel like a mouse! How can Dr.s say something causes something when that cause of something (allegedly) has not been studied on , oh I don’t know…., HUMANS? The environment of the CAGED mice most assuredly helped in the matter. Marijuana causing PANCREATITIS! HA!!! I DRANK LIKE A FISH AS WELL!!! CHECK!

    Reply
    • Seanne
      Seanne says:

      I have chronic pancreatitis from a birth defect, which I didn’t find out until I got pancreatitis while pregnant. My “baby girl” is almost 12 and healthy. I have what they call a divisum, less than half my pancreas works and it is declining. Anyway, I took suboxone for 10 years and I was fine, but it stopped working. Now I’m on a Fentynal patch and oxycodone. MJ was too psychodelic &:I couldn’t function. I’m a psychologist & am able to function most days. Functioning isn’t the same as really living life to the fullest though, is it. God Bless you all with your pain and struggles. I enjoy each day as pain free as I can with my husband and 12 year old sweet daughter. Thank you for reading.

      Reply
  3. jill
    jill says:

    I have a daughter with chronic pancreatitis. We have tried everything to help her manage her pain. Everything would work sometimes, but not all the time.And that included codiene.
    Then we tried MMJ. It has been a miracle for her. She uses a cbd tincture 2x a day (sativa) and an ointment that she rubs on her stomach also twice a day (Strong CBD base). After 3 years of chronic pain she is back to living a normal life. And the change happened within 48 hrs of her starting mmj 🙂
    Hope this helps someone!

    Reply
    • Janah
      Janah says:

      Is that the “Care By Design” tincture? Or what dose and yes sativa, but which and what kind. Are you using oil based like mine is coconut oil and cannabis oil, sublingual, or alcohol tincture?

      Reply
    • Cheri
      Cheri says:

      Jill,
      I would like more information my daughter has been battling 4 years and I have been to 7 states currently in Indiana! Any info would be greatly appreciated!
      Cheri

      Reply
  4. Marc
    Marc says:

    I have had chronic pancreatitis for 10 years. For pain they started me on percocet or dilaudid depending on the extreme of pain. Now for pain management I’m on methadone and have been now for 6 years. Used to get the heroin addict look at first since that’s a common use for addicts to come off heroin but it’s been a long term great help to me. Started using the mmj for help with nausea and pain and it helps sometimes more than not with both and I highly recommend it. You can get some with higher cbd levels and lower thc levels so you don’t get much of a ” Stoned feeling “. I’ve found that staff at the couple of establishments I’ve visited are very knowledgeable in the medical uses of mmj.

    Reply
  5. David Rosebush
    David Rosebush says:

    I have recently been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis! The doctors feed me all these pain pills and I feel fine when they are on the up side but when they are wearin off holy shit I’m twice as sick! I have a medical card and live in Michigan I’m looking for the right meds or doctor to talk to. Someone out there has to have this same problem please help

    Reply
  6. Janah
    Janah says:

    Holy Shit is correct. Pills, pills, pills….
    That what started the whole pancreatic mess, for me. The medical association has feed me pills for this and that for years!!!! Stupid me!!!! Yes I fell for it.
    I am pill free now and healing. After much medication research, I discovered that some side effects cause pancreatititis! Yes read those side effects…
    Pain sucks!!! But keep your diet clean and get some supplements. Research supplements!!!!! Enzymes, probiotics, grapeseed extract…….I have been lost in the cracks of medical help. So now I believe that I am my best doctor. I am not waiting anymore. I am getting stronger daily. Now for the liver cleanse. Why wait months for a specialist to cut you up… If those stones start in your liver unseen untill they get to your pancreas to be seen, why wait till they can see them. So I’ll get back to you, I’ll be the ginny pig.
    I will soon be doing the “Liver cleanse” with the apple juice, Epson salts an olive oil…., you can find it on line. I am willing to rid myself of those pesky stones within me. I will hurt them before they hurt me. I am not a doctor, so don’t do what I say, let me try first. But I love my pot tincture for balance, “Care By Design” 1:1 and smoke for pain. Your local pot store has a variety usually. My advice, get off prescription meds. My body did it for me. After throwing up everything for over 12 days, my mind started clearing the chemicals out and I came to my senses. I Am healing Now!!!! It was not an easy road. It’s been over two months now. Stay calm and breathe.

    Reply
    • MissMack
      MissMack says:

      Thank you. The Liver Gall Cleanse has helped. Gravel, uncalcified stones , chaff came out. Chk Andreas Moritz YouTube on Pancreatitis. Chk out acupressure on Liver Gall Meridians too. Noticed improvement and can do it on onself. Doing more than that but NOT doing the prescription drugs. Wishing you and myself and all Radiant Health

      Reply
  7. Dustin Childers
    Dustin Childers says:

    I suffer from chronic pancreatitis with defined cause. I’ve had my DNA analyzed for defects and had my gallbladder removed in an experimental/why not surgery in my search for relief. The first attack was so severe I was put in a medical induced coma for 3 weeks and spent 8 months out if the first year in and out of the ICU. I personally believe it was either my drinking or my time in the Army(OEF/OIF). Obviously I drank a lot in the service but my job brought me in contact with high doses of radiation from the radar tracking system I was assigned to. Like a lot of stories on here, pills were my life for a while. I smoked marijuana well before all of this(I’m in my early 30’s now) so I was already familiar with the recreational side of it. I used it shortly after my first year of this illness and I was really pleased with the results. All the pills that you will go through during this will almost guaranteed become an issue at some point. Whether it’s addiction, overdose, increasing doses due to tolerance increases, etc.. I am not advertising this as an end all be all style cure. I still needed some of the pain meds but not nearly as often as I did before. I lived off of the high calorie and protein “ensure” style drinks for a year. I lost 70 pounds in the first 3 weeks in the coma. Marijuana helped manage all of that. The pain was still there, it didn’t magically disappear but instead of the debilitating pain, I would feel something more along the lines of hunger pains, maybe a little more severe. But anyone who’s suffered before knows that a huge relief! It helped me eat. The was important. That’s when I would normally need the pain meds. Marijuana gave me an appetite and we all know eating sucks with this but the meds would help me through the hour or so after eating and that was that. I am a single father and I would consider all possibilities for my children if they suffered from this. A little research and one can become quite familiar with marijuana. Two different types, two different effects with hybrids that also cover the ground in between them. I know it goes against conventional wisdom when someone says give illegal drugs to your kids, but consider the following scenario; your young child is in obvious pain with an especially nasty attack. Morphine(or insert pill(s) name here) has a duration of efficacy(how long it will last) and everyone knows it is never as long as the attack. There is a limited number of pills that can be safely consumed, even when pushing your luck and popping several at once. That same child is alone in their room with two options available to them, pills and marijuana. Pain will always drive a person to make decisions that take away the pain, regardless of the consequences. Which one would you rather have ever them reaching for? One that will stop their breathing in an overdose or one that at best will leave them with a headache? I challenge you to find one legitimate claim of an overdose of marijuana, and the just for fun do the same for your specific pain pills. You will see that it is an option that can be explored with little to nothing lost if it doesn’t work. I know for my children I would try it, I don’t care if that meant learning how to make tea or brownies with it. Because after I’ve personally experienced the pain and suffering associated with pancreatitis, I would, a million times over, risk my child become a “pothead” over being addicted to pills or having to suffer for a lifetime. To each their own on here and believe me my heart goes out to the kids who are suffering. I don’t wanna see anyone suffer but the kids least of all. We live in the digital age with a world full of knowledge and answers just a Google away. Everything you could ever want to know about marijuana can be found online, including how to grow it and how to create the perfect strain that will have maximum benefits for the user. I would much rather have to defend my choice of giving my child marijuana as an means of relief then look in my child’s eyes everytime they feel like their insides are being ripped out and having to say, “I am so sorry the pill is working baby, but we have to wait another 3 hours before you can have another”. I hope this helps and good luck to everyone out there.
    Dustin

    Reply
  8. Dotty
    Dotty says:

    Does anyone out there have Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency? My pancreas does not produce the enzymes to digest proteins, fats, & carbohydrates.Does it help with that?? Pain, bloating & too many pills. Sick of it.

    Reply

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