For thousands of years, people have turned to medical cannabis to help with debilitating pain and/or nausea. Recent studies have proven that medical cannabis is very effective in treating these conditions. Often times it provides more effective than other traditional forms of medications, such as opiates. It can often be used in conjunction with traditional medications to lessen the dosage required while providing better relief for the patient. Studies from around the world have shown promise with cannabis as a viable treatment for a number of other serious and debilitating conditions.
Cannabis can work similarly to opioids (the strongest pain relievers available) when treating individuals living with cancer related pain. Additionally, it may have anti-inflammatory effects that can help with pain. Some treatment plans may include combination of both opioids and cannabis.
Neuropathy is a medical term for nerve damage, which is a common complication of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. It is typically characterized by a feeling of weakness, numbness, tingling, or burning in the hands and feet. Medical cannabis has been shown to provide relief for those experiencing pain from neuropathy.
Nausea and vomiting
Many individuals living with cancer experience nausea and vomiting as a side effect of chemotherapy. There are many medications available to treat this symptom. Dronabinol is a synthetic cannabinoid that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this indication. Additionally, studies have shown that medical cannabis can be an effective treatment for nausea and vomiting.
Anorexia or cachexia
Anorexia is the medical term for loss of appetite. Cachexia and wasting syndrome is a phenomenon of unintentional weight loss, specifically the loss of lean muscle and fat. It is often accompanied by fatigue and a decline in functional abilities. The synthetic cannabinoid dronabinol is also FDA-approved for anorexia associated with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), but not specifically for cancer. There are limited studies that demonstrate the efficacy of medical cannabis in the management of these symptoms. However, cannabis may improve one’s appetite and this condition may be a state-approved indication for medical cannabis.
Pre-clinical studies (lab and animal testing) show that cannabis may be effective in slowing down or stopping the growth of certain tumors. To date, there has been one small human trial to study this anti-cancer effect. However, there are other studies that show an association between recreational marijuana use and the development of certain cancers. These studies do not show that cannabis is a cause of these cancers, but only that there could be some link. Further research is needed to understand the safety profile and potential anti-neoplastic effects of this treatment.
More studies are needed to fully understand the exciting potential benefits to improve symptoms and quality of life for individuals living with cancer.