Pancreatitis and Cannabis

The Pancreas is a vital organ located in the abdomen. It serves two fundamental functions. The first is that it controls the sugar in the blood by secreting insulin to lower blood sugar or the opposite, secreting glucagon to raise the blood sugar levels. By doing this, it regulates the metabolism or carbohydrates and fats once we have eaten. Then the second function is to release digestive juices into the intestine, which are very important for the breaking down of the food we eat.

Once this is clear, there is no under-estimating the importance of this organ. However, Pancreatitis occurs in about 30 per 100,000 people annually. In the USA, this number is almost double, due to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. Globally in 2013 Pancreatitis caused 123,000 deaths, which is an increase of almost 35% since 1990.

Pancreatitis means the swelling of the pancreas and the decreased function of it. It is associated with tremendous abdominal pain which shoots into the back, as well as nausea and vomiting. However it does not stop there, Pancreatitis can also cause lung damage and affect the normal function of the lungs.

The most common causes of Pancreatitis are heavy alcohol use or binging alcohol over a long period of time, gallstones, smoking cigarettes, genetic disorders, mumps, autoimmune disease and many more.

Pancreatitis can be diagnosed when fat in the blood is three times the normal value. Medical imaging can also be used such as ultrasound or CT scans.

One of the biggest challenges with Pancreatitis is pain management; it can be excruciating and unbearable. Those who suffer from it are usually prescribed strong opioid medications such as morphine. However concerns about overuse of painkillers are increasing and the FDA is considering restrictions on their availability.  Furthermore prescription painkillers are highly addictive and amount to 15000 deaths per year.

While these painkillers may help in relieving the pain there is evidence to support that morphine may worsen Pancreatitis.

Medical marijuana is gaining popularity as a treatment and is becoming increasingly available medically around the U.S. Recently there have also been reports that cannabinoids (the active ingredient of marijuana) can not only help with pain management but also with other symptoms, such as multiple sclerosis or even stop the growth of certain cancerous tumors.

As of recently, there are studies that prove the advantages which medical marijuana holds when dealing with pancreatitis.

The following recent studies indicate several breakthroughs regarding symptom control of pancreatic disease:

Anti-inflammatory characteristics (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22850623)

Pain relief and general reduction of disease symptoms (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17484889)

This study is perhaps the most impressive as the findings suggest that the activation of cannabinoids found in medical marijuana may help suppress the disease progress (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18301776)

In today’s day and age it has become clear that while medical progress and medication may have taken us forward in many areas, sometimes it complicates matters that are easier to resolve with simple, natural remedies. Medical marijuana has helped many patients struggling with pancreatitis, and continues to prove itself as a very advantageous tool when fighting this disease. Medical marijuana is cheaper, with no symptomatic side effects and is most certainly a way forward in this area of human physiology.