Does smoking pot cause pancreatitis?

January 5, 2011, 11:13 pm

★★½☆☆

Case Report: Cannabis-induced acute pancreatitis. Beize O et al. Am J Emerg Med 2011 Jan;29, 131.e3-4.

Abstract

This French case report describes a 17-year-old male who developed status epilepticus and acute pancreatitis after heavy and regular cannabis use.  Other causes of pancreatitis and/or neurological changes — such as  alcoholism, gallstones, porphyria, cystic fibrosis — were ruled out.  The authors conclude that use of cannabis is a rare cause of pancreatitis.

I’m not so convinced.  There have been several cases previously reported of pancreatitis associated with cannabis use.  (To read them, click here and here.)  But I have three problems with this case report and the authors’ claim: 1) The number of people who use or have used cannabis is so large that if there was a real cause-and-effect relationship one would expect many more reported cases of this association; 2) None of the studies tested the actual “cannabis” sample used by the patients, leaving the possibility (I’d even say probability) that the “cannabis” had been tainted with other substances; and 3) Cannabis does not to my knowledge cause de novo seizures, so it seems likely that something else was going on in the case reported here. The authors really don’t discuss this aspect of the case adequately.

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