Cannabis as a Treatment for Cancer Patients
The medicinal practices associated with the cannabis plant can be dated back to 2000 BCE. The controversial image of the plant has been changing over the past decade, and its importance in the field of medicine is being explored. Accredited to the positive results yielded through such researches, a number of countries around the world have legalized medical marijuana. The drug has proved to be beneficial for patients suffering from various medical conditions. Through this article, we would see how cannabis helps cancer patients.
Cancer and Cannabis
Cannabis is a diverse plant with various compounds. The two most well-known compounds of cannabis include THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). While THC is associated with the ‘high’ one gets from consuming cannabis, it can also be beneficial for alleviating the side effects of cancer and its treatment. CBD, has proven to be quite helpful for cancer patients as well as for other medical conditions, since it helps reduce pain. Higher levels of THC are found in cannabis indica, whereas, higher levels of CBD are found in cannabis sativa.
Various studies involving cancer patients undergoing treatment have shown that medical marijuana can help with the following problems associated with cancer:
Neuropathy: Neuropathy refers to the medical condition where the nerves of individuals get damaged. This is a common side-effect of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. Patients suffering from this condition feel a numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation in their hands and feet. Medical marijuana, especially in the form of CBD has shown to provide relief from the pain associated with neuropathy.
Pain: Patients suffering from cancer experience high degree of pain due to the treatment. Due to this extreme pain associated with the treatment, the patients are often prescribed opioids. Marijuana can work as a substitute to opioid based medicines and help relieve pain due to this anti-inflammatory properties. Some treatment plans may incorporate both cannabis and opioids.
Nausea and Vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of chemotherapy. Despite there being many medications for this symptom, marijuana can be effective for treating the same. A synthetic cannabinoid called Dronabinol has proved to be effective for treating this symptom.
Loss of appetite: The medical term for the loss of appetite is called anorexia. Anorexia and unintentional weight loss are common among cancer patients, as a result of the treatment. The aforementioned Dronabinol as well as other naturally occurring compounds can help increase the appetite of the patients.
Apart from the aforementioned benefits, pre-clinical studies have also found that marijuana may be effective in slowing down the growth of certain tumors. Further research is needed in this field to find more conclusive evidence regarding the same.
Cannabis vs. Other Pain Killers
As mentioned above, pain is a common symptom for cancer patients. Doctors often administer doses of opioid medications for the same. The more the pain, the stronger the prescribed opioid medication. The use of such opioid based medicines is associated with various side effects such as: increased opioid-induced pain (hyperalgesia), possibility of accidental overdose, it might be dangerous for patients with sleep apnea, and those who have a history of overdose; or patients struggling from opioid addiction. Since it is not possible to overdose on marijuana and it is non-addictive, it can prove to be a great alternative for opioid based medications, with limited side-effects. A lot of cancer patients have shown improvements when their pain meds were switched to marijuana. However, its efficiency may differ from patient to patient. In some cases, patients are prescribed medical marijuana along with mild opioid medication.
From the discussion above, it can be concluded that cannabis can prove to be an effective component in the treatment of cancer. A medical health professional should be consulted for more information, and self-medication is not advised.