Cannabis and overactive bladder syndrome

Millions of people all over the world suffer from overactive bladder syndrome (OAB). It can result from several biological factors, including weak bladder muscles or inflammation. Also, the syndrome can be caused by the diseases associated with nerve damage like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Regretfully, in a large number of cases, the cause of OAB is not fully understood. Thus, managing it is a challenge for modern medicine. Further, keeping in mind the chronic or even lifelong nature of the problem, pharmacological drugs are not the best option for many.

Symptoms of OAB are the following:

  • Urgent and uncontrollable need to urinate
  • Frequent involuntary loss of urine
  • Frequent urination (about 8-10 times in 24 hours)
  • Waking up more than once a night to urinate

It can be a significant and constant inconvenience or pain. Moreover, a person suffering from OAB faces considerable social embarrassment as there is a necessity to search for a bathroom leading them to at times not attending events and occasions as they fear mishap and emotional worry.

Over the past decade, interest in the role of endocannabinoids in regulating many mammalian processes, including urinary disorders, has increased. Some studies are researching how cannabis can be helpful for people suffering from overactive bladder syndrome. How is that? Is there any scientific evidence for this?

Why may Cannabis be a practical option?

It is known that bladder activity is the function of both the central and peripheral nervous system, and cannabinoid receptors are present both in the central and peripheral nervous system.

Also, these receptors are activated by compounds similar to those found in the cannabis plant. These findings can be the beginning of more extensive research concerning cannabis and incontinence. But more data is needed regarding clinical efficacy.

However, considering the cannabis-related products are now widely available and most of them are safe for prolonged use, they may be helpful for many individuals living with OAB.

Bladder control and cannabis

The 2010 study discovered the specific cannabinoid receptors and a family of the ligand within those receptors in the bladder acting in accordance with the “lock and key” theory1. More recent findings seem to confirm the link between cannabinoid receptors and bladder regulation.

Due to these receptors, cannabis works directly with natural cannabinoid receptors in the bladder control pathways. This means that the cannabis plant may improve urinary incontinence conditions.

But, of course, more extensive research is needed.

Clinical trials findings

Several clinical trials findings showed that taking of cannabis-originated extracts improves bladder control. For example, the researchers at Oxford’s Center for Enablement discovered that administration of cannabis improved the condition of patients with OAB2.

Other studies showed that people suffering from Multiple sclerosis experience decreased urinary urgency, frequency and urination at night when using cannabis3.

Also, the experts concluded that the use of cannabis extracts might reduce OAB in patients who were previously treatment resistant4.

Side effects reported

Currently, we do not have approved cannabis-derived medication to help with OAB. This work is still in progress. But some clinical trials are being conducted. The patients who agreed to participate in trials were treated with THC/CBD capsules or oromucosal spray.

These findings look quite optimistic, but further assessment and data control are needed. Anyone with OAB who has decided to try cannabis as a treatment should consult with a doctor and discuss all potential risks and benefits to avoid unpleasant conditions.


  1. Tyagi P, Tyagi V, Yoshimura N, Chancellor M. Functional role of cannabinoid receptors in urinary bladder. Indian J Urol. 2010;26(1):26-35. doi:10.4103/0970-1591.60440
  2. Wade DT, Robson P, House H, Makela P, Aram J. A preliminary controlled study to determine whether whole-plant cannabis extracts can improve intractable neurogenic symptoms. Clin Rehabil. 2003;17(1):21-29. doi:10.1191/0269215503cr581oa
  3. Brady CM, DasGupta R, Dalton C, Wiseman OJ, Berkley KJ, Fowler CJ. An open-label pilot study of cannabis-based extracts for bladder dysfunction in advanced multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis Journal. 2004;10(4):425-433. doi:10.1191/1352458504ms1063oa
  4. Maniscalco GT, Aponte R, Bruzzese D, et al. THC/CBD oromucosal spray in patients with multiple sclerosis overactive bladder: a pilot prospective study. Neurol Sci. 2018;39(1):97-102. doi:10.1007/s10072-017-3148-6


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