A study published this year in Frontiers in Pain Research demonstrated that cancer patients who use medical marijuana may experience less pain, reduced symptoms and a better quality of life. Study participants were also able to rely less on opioid painkillers with minimal side effects, according to the study’s Israeli researchers hailing from both medical and educational institutions.1
In all, about 60% of participants reported improvement in pain and related symptoms with the use of medical marijuana; after six months, nearly half stopped all other pain medications. Additional symptoms considered included common cancer comorbidities such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, decreased quality of life, increased disability and negative effects on sexuality.
“Traditionally, cancer-related pain is mainly treated by opioid analgesics, but most oncologists perceive opioid treatment as hazardous, so alternative therapies are required,” said David Meiri, assistant professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in a written statement. “Our study is the first to assess the possible benefits of medical cannabis for cancer-related pain [by] gathering information from the start of treatment, and with repeated follow-ups for an extended period of time to get a thorough analysis of its effectiveness.”
These findings advance existing studies which continue to demonstrate the benefits of medical marijuana. Along with pain, marijuana has long been accepted to help with nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatments. In fact, an article from the American Cancer Society states that, “A number of small studies of smoked marijuana found that it can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy,” and that, “studies have long shown that people who took marijuana extracts in clinical trials tended to need less pain medicine.”2
Interest in the use of cannabis for pain is widespread, as further evidenced by a report put forth by the National Academies Committee on the health effects of marijuana: “The committee found evidence to support that [adult] patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids were more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms.”3 It has been suggested that the cannabinoids in cannabis may reduce pain by altering pain perception pathways in the brain.
Those looking to integrate cannabis into a cancer treatment plan should consult with their physician to understand any possible medication interactions. As medical and recreational marijuana are now legal in California, many practitioners have these resources readily available. Consumers are not required to have a medical card to purchase cannabis products, and those who don’t wish to smoke now have numerous options including edibles such as gummies and chocolates, capsules, tablets, powder, transdermal patches, tinctures and topicals like balms, gels, salves and lotions.
It is also important to recognize the difference between CBD and cannabis (marijuana). Simply put, CBD can be derived from marijuana or from hemp, but it must have less than .3% of THC, the substance that causes the “high” in cannabis. Cannabis products will have a ratio of THC to CBD which is best understood by consulting with a dispensary’s qualified cannabis professionals.
Bulldog Cannabis is a cultivation facility and dispensary with a focus on product quality and consumer education. They are located at 72242 Watt Court in Thousand Palms and can be reached at (760) 481.3236. For more information, visit www.bulldogcannabis.com.
References: 1) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpain.2022.861037/full; 2) https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/complementary-and-integrative-medicine/marijuana-and-cancer.html; 3) https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2017/01/health-effects-of-marijuana-and-cannabis-derived-products-presented-in-new-report;