Here's What Marijuana Does To Your Bladder

July 27th 2015

Anyone who suffers from overactive bladder syndrome knows what an inconvenience it can be—to have constant, sudden urges to go to the bathroom and the social embarrassment that often follows—but a new study offers hope for OAB sufferers, and that hope comes from an unexpected source: marijuana.

Specifically, researchers looked at the non-psychoactive cannabinoid known as cannabigerol (or CBG) and its effect on bladder contractility, the ability for the urinary organ to contract. Anecdotal evidence prompted the team of scientists to investigate the potential health benefits of cannabinoids such as CBG, CBD, and THCV as they relate to bladder dysfunction.

In their study, published in the peer-reviewed journal, Natural Product Communications, the researchers describe the process of administering cannabis compounds into mice and analyzing the effect on bladder contractility, finding that CBG presented the highest levels of efficacy in reducing contractions, which alleviates the symptoms of OAB. "CBG also reduced acetylcholine-induced contractions in the human bladder," they noted.

This is promising news. The American Urological Association reported that 7 to 27 percent of men and 9 to 43 percent of women experience OAB—though 37 to 39 percent of cases remit within a year—and most sufferers deal with the disorder on an ongoing basis. Between expensive surgical procedures and prescription medication, OAB treatment costs exceed $12 billion per year in the United States.

Not without precedent, the new study comes on the heels of research published by the the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2013, which also looked at the relationship between select cannabinoids and the urinary bladder. In that study, researchers discovered that administering cannabis extracts in THC, the main psychoactive compound of cannabis, improved urinary incontinence by as much as 25 percent. That means significant relief for people with OAB.

What's more, marijuana might even reduce the risk of developing bladder cancer in men. An unrelated study from earlier this year found that, of the 84,170 men surveyed by health professionals at Northwest Kaiser Permanente, 279 developed bladder cancer over an 11-year period, and the disease affected only "89 marijuana smokers (0.3%) compared with 190 men (0.4%) who did not report marijuana use."

"After adjusting for age, race or ethnicity, and body mass index, use of marijuana only was associated with a 45-percent decreased risk of bladder cancer, whereas use of tobacco was associated with a 52-percent increased risk," the researchers observed.

When we think about the potential health benefits of marijuana—whether holistically smoked or through the medical administration of independent cannabinoids—rarely do we consider how the substance might help people suffering from bladder dysfunction; but thanks to the due diligence of some scientists, studies such as these may one day serve a wider range of patients, offering an alternative to the invasive surgeries and pricey pills that most Americans have had to tolerate.

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