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Cannabis and Opioid Induced Constipation

OIC (Opioid Induced Constipation) How Does Cannabis Help?

I recently saw a TV commercial for the treatment of Opioid Induced Constipation. A drug for the effects of a drug; not a side effect…it’s just an effect. With opioids that have been declared a national emergency and epidemic in North America, I see this as the height of insanity. If you’re taking these drugs for OIC or taking opioids at all, read on.

3D man with Intestinal problems sitting on the toilet

Constipation we can all agree is at the least a very uncomfortable situation. It’s fair to say most of us have been there on occasion. Many cancer and chronic pain patients use opioids to help with pain and as such often suffer with Opioid Induced Constipation. Often patients end up limiting their use as a result: laxatives for Opioid Induced Constipation are not generally successful with this condition.

Some General Statistics on Constipation:

  • Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in the United States.   
  • More than 4 million Americans have frequent constipation, accounting for 2.5 million physician visits a year.  
  • Those reporting constipation most often are women and adults ages 65 and older.  
  • Pregnant women may have constipation, and it is a common problem following childbirth or surgery.
  • Self-treatment of constipation with over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives is by far the most common aid.  
  • Americans spend more than $725 million each year on laxatives.

Constipation can result in haemorrhoid formation, rectal pain and burning, bowel obstruction, bowel rupture, and death, as well as upper gut dysfunctions, including gastroesophageal reflux disease. Suffice to say, it is not something to be taken lightly.

While OIC, is part of a broader group of symptoms called “opioid-induced bowel dysfunction” (OIBD), has been recognized for many years, health professionals still underestimate the condition’s impact on activities of daily living and quality of life (QoL). In addition, chronic constipation can result in haemorrhoid formation, rectal pain and burning, bowel obstruction, bowel rupture, and death, as well as upper gut dysfunctions, including gastroesophageal reflux.


How can cannabis help relieve constipation?


“Manipulation of the ECS (endocannabinoid system) by cannabinoids, or by drugs that raise the levels of endogenous cannabinoids, have shown beneficial effects on GI pathophysiology.”

Rudolf Schicho; Martin Storr
Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2010;3(2):193-207

Constipation of intestinal reflexes may be alleviated by the anti-emetic properties of cannabis.
Relief of constipation was one of the original cannabis indications cited by Shen-Nung five thousand years ago. Virtually every historical medical reference since that time has included similar observations. On the other hand, opiates commonly cause very severe constipation.

Ingesting, smoking or vaporizing cannabis extract or can relax your bowels where smoking cannabis can produce an immediate result, usually in less than two minutes.

Hemp seed oil products mixed with herbal extracts are widely sold in China as laxatives. Around  (2,300 B.C.)  hemp was documented as a medicine. Emperor Shen Nung prescribed hemp for the treatment of constipation along with a long list of other ailments. In India, the ayurvedic physicians mix hemp leaves with milk, sugar and spices to treat constipation.

Cannabinoids are antispasmodic, can sedate when there is irritation and relax smooth muscles. The relaxing effects of THC can help your intestines pass bulk bowel movements much easier and more quickly because the cannabinoid (THC) relaxes the nerves in the intestinal wall.  There is a theory that THC helps the stomach digest and process foods more easily also.

This is yet another area where cannabis can ease the frustration, pain and discomfort of chronic or other disease created by a conventional medical solution. Of course I would be remiss not to mention that people take opioids for pain. Guess what else cannabis is good for? That of course is a rhetorical question…am I getting through? If not, I’ll leave this with you to ponder; According to the CDC’s most recent statistics (2014) available opioids killed 28,647 people. That’s almost double from the year before.  Now, just for fun, guess how many fatalities were caused by using cannabis? That’s right! ZERO! A big goose egg! Cannabis has never killed anyone. Ever. Insane. There is no other word.



Opioid-Induced Constipation: Pathophysiology, Clinical Consequences, and Management
Lalit Kumar,1 Chris Barker,2,3 and Anton Emmanuel1
January 1, 2016 / 64(50);1378-82

Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2000–2014
Rose A. Rudd, MSPH1; Noah Aleshire, JD1; Jon E. Zibbell, PhD1; R. Matthew Gladden, PhD1

Gastroenterology Research and Practice
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 141737,


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