Association Between Cannabis Use and Healthcare Utilization in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Retrospective Cohort Study

Cureus. 2020 May 7;12(5):e8008. doi: 10.7759/cureus.8008.


Introduction Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a frequent cause of abdominal pain and altered bowel habits, which is associated with significant healthcare utilization. The effects of the active compound of cannabis, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), on gut motility and tone have been studied in several experimental models. It is unknown whether these effects correlate with improved healthcare utilization among cannabis users. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the impact of cannabis use on inpatient length of stay and resource utilization for patients with a primary discharge diagnosis of IBS. Methods Data were extracted from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample database from 2010 to 2014 for all patients with a primary discharge diagnosis of IBS. Cannabis users (n=246) and non-users (n=9147) were directly compared for various clinical outcomes. Results Cannabis users were less likely to have the following: upper gastrointestinal endoscopy (17.9% vs. 26.1%; adjusted odds ratio [aOR]: 0.51 [0.36 to 0.73]; p<0.001) and lower gastrointestinal endoscopy (21.1% vs. 28.7%; aOR: 0.54 [0.39 to 0.75]; p<0.001). Additionally, cannabis users had shorter length of stay (2.8 days vs. 3.6 days; p=0.004) and less total charges (US$20,388 vs. US$23,624). There was no difference in the frequency of CT abdomen performed. Conclusions Cannabis use may decrease inpatient healthcare utilization in IBS patients. These effects could possibly be through the effect of cannabis on the endocannabinoid system.

Keywords: cannabis; functional bowel disease; health care utilization; irritable bowel syndrome.