Findings in a new study suggest that consuming cannabinoids regularly reduces the severity of acute alcoholic pancreatitis (AAP). Researchers from the Mercer School of Medicine retrospectively examined 10 years of a hospital’s records on acute alcoholic patients as they were being admitted into the hospital. The analyzed the severity of the patients’ pancreatitis and compared the results of those who had tested positive for cannabinoids to those who hadn’t. They published their findings in the journal Translational Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Acute alcohol pancreatitis causes bouts of severe pain, nausea, and vomiting. It develops in response to progressive damage to the pancreas gland after prolonged overconsumption of alcohol. In severe cases, AAP can cause circulatory collapse or profound metabolic abnormalities. The acute attacks are typically precipitated by an increase in alcohol intake.
In the study, the researchers analyzed the severity of 116 patients that were admitted into The Medical Center teaching hospital in Macon, Georgia between January 2006 and December 2015. They then identified whether a patient had tested positive for cannabinoids upon hospital admission to determine whether cannabinoids impacted the severity of the disease.
“[W]e found that [cannabinoid] positive patients had less severe presentation of AAP, indicating that [cannabinoids] could modulate the inflammatory effects of alcohol on the pancreas,” the researchers concluded.
To measure the severity of pancreatitis, the researchers assessed blood urea nitrogen, bedside index for severity in acute pancreatitis (BISAP) score, systematic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), and Balthazar computed tomography (CT) scan grade. Of the 116 patients analyzed, 38 tested positive for cannabinoids upon admission, and 76 tested negative.
Cannabinoids, derived from plants like hemp, have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Previous studies have found these anti-inflammatory effects to be beneficial for diseases related to the pancreas. In one study, researchers found evidence of cannabinoids “abolishing pain associated with acute pancreatitis and in partially reducing inflammation and disease pathology in the absence of adverse side effects.” In another, the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) reduced inflammation in the diseases pancreases of mice.
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