Cannabis induced gastrointestinal tract symptoms in the adult population: a systematic review

Med Princ Pract. 2024 Jan 10. doi: 10.1159/000536161. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Cannabinoid usage is widespread in the self-management of various medical ailments. However, adverse effects have been reported with use, especially pertaining to the gastrointestinal system in adults and aged patients. These range from nausea, vomiting, bloating, or abdominal pain. This systematic review of previously reported cannabis-induced gastrointestinal symptoms in the adult population from the literature provides an analysis of relevant data to enhance knowledge and awareness of this topic.

Methods: PubMed, Ovid MEDLINE, Cochrane Central, EMBASE and Google Scholar databases were searched for relevant studies published from inception to March 2023.

Results: The search yielded 598 results, of which 13 were deemed relevant and underwent further review. These included two systematic reviews, one retrospective cohort study, one retrospective chart review, two cross-sectional studies, one survey, and six case reports. The Cochrane Risk Tool for bias analysis was applied where relevant. The total number of people in the studies selected for analysis was 79, 779. Twelve out of the thirteen included studies reported some type of gastrointestinal tract symptoms experienced in medical and/or recreational cannabis users ranging from nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, to adult intussusception.

Conclusion: Potential limitations include small sample sizes, variation in research methodologies, varied studied designs, and limited availability of data on specific populations such as geriatric users. Further research is warranted to add to current evidence pertaining to this emerging topic of significance, fill the broad knowledge gaps and contribute to evidence-based guidelines for healthcare professionals, ensuring safe prescribing practices and provision of quality care.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review