Medical Research News

Cannabis Use in Cirrhosis Patients: Reduced Hospitalization and Improved Outcomes

Written by Lisa Rennie

Cannabis may be an effective supplement to treatment for cirrhosis of the liver and improve healthcare outcomes in patients. [1]

Cirrhosis involves scarring of the liver caused by a number of ailments and liver diseases, including hepatitis, alcoholism, and fatty liver disease. It’s a late-stage disease in which scar tissue replaces healthy liver cells, preventing the liver from working properly. The presence of accumulating tissue hinders blood flow through the liver and decreases its ability to process hormones, nutrients, medications, and natural toxins.

Timely treatment is required to slow any further damage and treat symptoms associated with the disease. Traditional treatment for cirrhosis depends on the extent of damage done to the liver and the underlying cause of the disease. That said, it typically involves significant lifestyle changes and medication.

However, studies show that cannabis use may serve as a potentially effective complement to conventional treatment, thereby reducing the need for conventional health care and improving outcomes for patients. [1-3]

A recent analysis [1] of the State Inpatient Database (SID) was conducted to evaluate patients with cirrhosis of the liver. The study assessed patients in Washington and Colorado in 2011 before cannabis was legalized, and again in 2015 after its legalization. The effect of cannabis was analyzed in relation to healthcare facility admissions, healthcare utilization, and mortality rate in patients with cirrhosis.

The use of cannabis was found in 2.1% of cirrhosis patients (370) admitted in 2011 and in 5.3% of patients in 2015 (1,162). Researchers discovered that cirrhotics who used cannabis after it was legalized realized a reduced rate of admission related to hepatorenal syndrome (kidney failure related to cirrhosis). Further, the length of stay in a hospital setting and inpatient mortality rate also decreased compared to cirrhosis patients who did not use cannabis or who used it prior to its legalization. Total charges for admission were also significantly lower.

However, researchers found that cirrhotics with an underlying cause unrelated to chronic alcoholism or hepatitis C had a higher risk of hospital admission for hepatic encephalopathy (brain function decline due to toxin buildup) if they used cannabis. In this data, the majority of the patients suffered from alcohol cirrhosis followed by “other,” hepatitis C, then hepatitis B.

The use of cannabis in patients with cirrhosis of the liver has some mixed outcomes in terms of hospital admissions. That said, those with the disease caused by hepatitis or excessive alcohol consumption experienced a lower rate of hospital utilization and mortality following legalization. Further study is needed to verify these findings. [1]

Image source: Chuck Herrera from Pixabay


  1. Sobotka LA, et al. Cannabis use may reduce healthcare utilization and improve hospital outcomes in patients with cirrhosis. Annals of Hepatology. 2021;23(100280). [Impact Factor: 2.125; Times Cited: n/a]
  2. Dibba P, et al. The role of cannabinoids in the setting of cirrhosis. Med. 2018;5(2). doi:10.3390/medicines5020052. [Impact Factor: 1.552; Times Cited: 9 (Semantic Scholar)]
  3. Adejumo AC, et al. Cannabis use is associated with reduced prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A cross-sectional study. PLoS One. 2017;12(4):e0176416. [Impact Factor: 2.740; Times Cited: 41 (Semantic Scholar)]

About the author

Lisa Rennie

Lisa Simoneli Rennie has been working as a freelance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content dedicated to informing consumers. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with others, and in her spare time, Lisa enjoys trying funky new recipes, spending time with her dog, and of course, reveling in the joy of family.

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