Cannabis and cancer, quite a popular topic, however, many people have to face the reality of either; dealing with cancer themselves or having an immediate family member or friend having to fight the deadly disease. Unfortunately, many of those victims are either unaware or simply have not been given the option of alternative treatments to the more orthodox chemotherapy. The alternative treatment that we will focus on in this post is the use of medical cannabis and its healing qualities. Cannabis, on many levels, is no longer simply a ‘recreational drug’.
We have made what most medical cannabis activists will call a ‘semi-advancement’ in cancer treatment. There are numerous people that because of their medical cannabis regime are now happily cancer free. We have made huge leaps in progress with regards to medical cannabis and its ability to treat and cure cancer. However, the current majority, unfortunately, don’t take this course of treatment, and instead, choose the road most traveled and are treated with surgery, chemo or radiotherapy. Cannabis is being increasingly used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatments to help relieve the symptoms experienced not only from cancer but also the treatments. We cannot completely disregard traditional cancer treatments as the best results have been seen when cannabis is used alongside chemotherapy.
Let’s take a look at how medical cannabis can complement conventional treatment:
STOPS VOMITING & NAUSEA
A regular occurrence amongst cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy is intense bouts of nausea, vomiting, and retching. Chemotherapy is very toxic to our bodies and, despite the cocktail of medication given to counter the horrible side effects, most patients feel extremely sick during treatment making day to day life difficult to manage. Many have turned to cannabis as a possible alternative to chemo and the harsh side effects that accompany it. Countries such as the U.S.A have THC based medications that are more commonly being prescribed to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemo treatment. These medications are being used with great success where other medications have failed and in countries or U.S states where cannabis is legalized chemo-induced nausea or vomiting is now a qualifying condition to receive THC based treatments.
For any person who happens to smoke a joint in their time, it is not uncommon to find yourself with the munchies – that extreme uncontrollable urge to eat. This happens to us because of THC, the cannabinoid found in very high amounts in most of the recreational strains of cannabis we know of today. THC is a very curious thing, it tricks our brains into thinking we are starving (when most of the time we are not!). So, this got the right people thinking this cannabinoid may have the same positive effect on patients whose appetite has been negatively affected by chemotherapy. When patients with advanced stages of cancer are treated with THC their appetite and appreciation for food increases along with an improved quality of sleep.
REDUCTION OF CANCER-RELATED PAIN
Cancer patients experience pain on a chronic level, whether this is because of the disease or from the treatment itself. Chemotherapy can sometimes cause severe nerve damage and because of this, patients undergoing treatment suffer extreme pain. As most of us know, when you feel pain the doctor prescribes painkillers. When it comes to cancer, the pain can be intense and so the pain medications can include opioid-based drugs such as morphine. Morphine, being such a powerful opiate, can in some cases take away from a cancer patients quality of life instead of adding to it. Patients with high doses of opiates are in most cases unable to interact or properly communicate to their loved ones in their remaining time. Many, because of the usage of cannabis, have successfully reduced their opiate dose or have been able to come off the drug completely. THC is often most spoken about, however, CBD (another cannabinoid) is more favored by cancer patients for its pain reduction qualities. With all the research into using cannabis preparations for general cancer pain, we should be seeing more successful cases of cannabis treatments. Unfortunately, research seems too few and far between to see significant advancements in the use of cannabis as medicine.
REDUCES FEELINGS OF ANXIETY
Feeling fearful, hopeless and anxious are very common emotions that a cancer patient may experience. Depression after diagnosis is a real possibility and treating this along with anxiety using plant-based medications such as cannabis is a better option for pharmaceutical drugs. As a measure to try to lessen feelings of anxiety, research shows that cannabinoid CBD to be the most effective. This is because CBD activates the ‘feel good’ receptor in our brain that is responsible for releasing serotonin. Serotonin affects the way we feel and as such is heavily involved in mood and anxiety disorders. Not only that, CBD can stop an enzyme found in our bodies that breaks down our natural mood enhancing chemical called Anandamide. With CBD having this quality it Is thought to help reduce anxiety.
INCREASED LIFE EXPECTANCY OF BRAIN TUMOR PATIENTS
There are many forms of chemo given to patients based on the type of cancer they suffer from, these are used in conjunction with cannabis-based medications. Patients suffering from GBM (an aggressive type of brain cancer) that underwent cannabis treatment alongside chemotherapy had an almost85% one-year survival rate in comparison to half that for those who underwent chemo alone. Yes, sure these results apply to only one type of brain cancer and one particular type of chemotherapy but we can most certainly find this research encouraging. THC and CBD most definitely offer a unique alternative to existing oncology medications and could possibly be an option for future cancer treatment.
As time goes on and we continue to have pro-cannabis research in the medical field, I do believe further discoveries will be made about the potential cannabis has to offer in treating cancer (and the negatives associated with conventional treatment). There is a possibility for cannabis to become the next best course of treatment for cancer. This can become reality with continued research and funding of clinical trials.
Written by MJ, February 2018