For thousands of years, cannabis plants have been used for a wide range of medicinal purposes. With the recent legalization of cannabis across many states in the US, more and more people have become interested in the medicinal qualities of cannabis, including people who have been diagnosed with cancer. In this article, we explore the relationship between cannabis and cancer, and more specifically, focus on what research has said about how cannabis can aid people who are fighting cancer.
Setting Context: A Closer Look at Cannabis
To fully understand the effects of marijuana on cancer, one first must know what marijuana is. The medicinal plant contains several biologically active compounds known as cannabinoids. These compounds contain a series of chemicals like delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Although there are hundreds more chemicals contained in the plant, those two are the most common and most studied related to health benefits. The major difference between those two chemicals is that while THC is psychoactive, CBD is not. The amount of cannabinoids varies in each strain and type of marijuana, making some strains more effective for medical use.
Effects of Cannabis on Cancer Patients
To figure out how marijuana helps cancer patients, several researchers from the world’s top leading universities and health organizations have published multiple studies. In a 2017 article published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, researchers found that cannabinoids can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy, as well as in treating neuropathic pain. More recently, in 2021, a study published in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology found that cancer patients who used medical marijuana improved sleep initiation and continuity, and in addition, decreased their use of sleep medications. Several cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy have reported that marijuana has greatly reduced their need for pain medication. In summary, several studies have substantiated claims related to marijuana’s effects on cancer patients.
Conclusion—Marijuana in Medicine
More research is being carried out to understand the full range of benefits of cannabis for cancer treatment. However, the plant has now been recognized by the United States government as a helpful treatment for some cancer patients. More and more cancer patients are using medical marijuana to treat symptoms related to chemotherapy and cancer. Ultimately, however, no matter how appealing the benefits may be, it’s always recommended to consult a medical expert before making a decision.