Cannabis has been called a “miracle drug” for helping with several types of medical-related conditions such as chronic pain, muscular dystrophy, painful spasms, and chemotherapy-related nausea. There have also been claims that cannabis has completely cured their ailments. But despite the enthusiasm of some people, the use of cannabis has not been medically proven to cure any medical condition, including cancer. Current medical studies have shown that medical marijuana can help manage many of the side effects cancer patients experience during their treatment. Let’s take a closer look at how medical marijuana can be used as part of a cancer patient’s overall care and treatment.
Oncologists have confirmed that cannabinoids from cannabis flowers have helped bring relief to some side effects cancer patients experience due to chemotherapy. In a study conducted in 2016 by the Hematology-Oncology Department at San Francisco General Hospital, cannabinoids have proven “useful in combatting anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia and depression.[i]” To date, although cannabinoid usage for cancer treatment continues to be researched where allowed (usually in countries other than the US), no conclusive evidence supports its recommendation and usage other than mentioned above. It is important understand how these cannabinoids work to help cancer patients.
So what are cannabinoids and how do they help? Simply put, cannabinoids are chemical compounds produced by cannabis flower that interacts with receptors in the body to provide relief to a range of symptoms such as pain, nausea and inflammation. Before these compounds enter the body, each compound starts as cannabinoid acids such as THCa and CBDa. THCa and CBDa are the two most common and abundant cannabinoid acids found in the cannabis flower. When activated by heat, THCa and CBDa yield the compounds consumers know as THC and CBD. According to the American Cancer Society, when THC and CBD enter the body, THC “can help relieve pain and nausea, reduce inflammation, and can act as an antioxidant. Cannabidiol (CBD) can help treat seizures, can reduce anxiety and paranoia, and can counteract the “high” caused by THC.[ii]”
While research has proven cannabis can aid in patient symptom relief, there is no rigorous proof that cannabis is effective as a cancer treatment. However, the FDA has approved the use of synthetic cannabinoids such as nabilone and dronabinol to treat nausea and vomiting experienced by cancer patients.
As a patient, you have a say in how your treatment should be planned and what it should entail, including medicinal usage. Even though cancer patients have synthetic cannabinoids as a medicinal option once they have obtained a medical card, many are doing their own literature research and arming themselves with medical studies and data to help them have the conversation with their primary care physician or oncologist about using medical marijuana as part of their treatment regimen. You should also consider seeking out a registered provider who embraces medical cannabis for a more thorough consultation for your needs.
After you become an approved medical marijuana patient in the state where you live, you are encouraged to speak with a patient consultant to understand dosing and consumption methods. The patient consultants at Health for Life in Mesa, Arizona as well as Baltimore, Bethesda and White Marsh Maryland, are committed to provide you with the education and knowledge you can use to make decisions on your medicinal treatment.
Cannabis use can contribute to short-term and long-term adverse effect such as impaired memory, impaired motor ability, altered judgment and paranoia. Regular inhalation may be associated with inflammation of large airways, increase airway resistance and lung hyperinflation. There is also an increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders (including schizophrenia) in persons with a predisposition to such disorders. There is a small percentage of people who may develop a form of addiction to marijuana, particularly if consumed in large quantities daily. Marijuana should not be consumed if pregnant. For use only adults, 21 years of age or older. Keep out of the reach of children.
It is always recommended that when using cannabis, especially for a cannabis-naïve person:
START LOW, GO SLOW
[i] Abrams, D. (2016). Integrating cannabis into clinical cancer care. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27022315?dopt=Abstract
[ii] American Cancer Society. (2019). Marijuana and Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/complementary-and-alternative-medicine/marijuana-and-cancer.html