4 Important Things You Should Know About Marijuana and Cancer

Marijuana also referred to as cannabis and many other names is a plant that has been in existence for years and cultivated across the world for use in herbal remedies and recreational purposes. Marijuana contains several active compounds, called cannabinoids, of which 2 are the most popular of all: Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC and Cannabidiol, CBD.

While THC is known to be psychoactive, CBD, on the other hand, does not have any psychoactive effect and many people diagnosed with cancer have claimed the use of CBD in the management of pains, is highly effective.

Marijuana and Cancer

Many studies have reported that individuals undergoing treatment for cancer can benefit from the use of marijuana in managing some common symptoms. A particular study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse also identifies some benefits of the use of marijuana.

However, scientists are of the belief that the limitations on the research on marijuana imply that there are bigger questions to answer on the medical properties of the substance.

Apart from THC and CBD, there are as much as 400 chemical compounds in marijuana, of which 60 are cannabinoids. Most of these compounds could have medical value. Owing to the limitation on research carried out on the substance, there may be limited knowledge on the importance or value of these compounds.

Can Marijuana Cure Cancer?

It is important to note that marijuana does not cure cancer but has been used extensively by some people in the treatment of the symptoms associated with the disease.

How Marijuana Can Help Cancer

Marijuana can help in the alleviation of some specific cancer symptoms and also in the treatment of the side effects of some other medications.

The active compounds in marijuana are found in varying amounts in the different strains of the plant, which implies that the effects of marijuana on the symptoms associated with cancer can even vary depending on the type of strain.

Another critical factor to note is the way through which marijuana enters the body

  • When cannabis is ingested orally, such as in baked edibles, the THC will be absorbed poorly and may take some hours before it begins to show effect. Once this is absorbed, it then undergoes processing in the liver to produce another psychoactive substance (different from THC) which acts on the brain to begin its effect.
  • When marijuana is vaporized or smoked, the THC content enters directly into the bloodstream and finds its way into the brain. The effects of marijuana taken in this form are short-lived

Marijuana effects on Cancer Symptoms

  • Nausea: Some studies have reported that marijuana could ease the side effects of undergoing chemotherapy. The FDA reportedly approved certain drugs, which are man-made cannabinoids to treat nausea in cancer patients.
  • Pain: Studies also have it that marijuana can alleviate pains related to cancer. The compound in the substance when ingested will bind to cannabinoid receptors present in the brain and other parts of the body. Marijuana may also be effective in easing inflammation.

Nerve pain like neuropathy, which is the numbness, weakness and pains caused by damage to the nerve, as a result of chemotherapy, can also be eased with the use of marijuana

  • Anorexia and Cachexia: Anorexia is the medical term for loss of appetite, while Cachexia is a phenomenon of undeliberate loss of weight, specifically loss of fat and lean muscle. These symptoms are often accompanied by fatigue. The FDA-approved Cannabinoid, Dronabinol has been used in the treatment of anorexia associated with AIDS, though not specifically meant for cancer.

The studies on the efficacy of medical marijuana in the treatment of these symptoms are limited; however, cannabis can improve the appetite of cancer patients.

  • Anti-Neoplastic: Studies also have it that marijuana may be effective in the halting the growth of certain tumours.

The classification of marijuana as an illegal drug has set a limit on the research of its application in the medical world. However, the interest in this field has been on the increase in the past few years. There is a need for more studies to have a full understanding of the potential benefits of the substance in the treatment of the symptoms associated with cancer.

What to expect during the use of medical marijuana

Medical marijuana is available in different strains, and every strain has different levels of potency as well as the active compounds. What this implies is that the effect of the substance will vary depending on the user, and this can be quite difficult to predict.

Medical marijuana products can come in many forms, which include:

  • Edibles such as candy, cookies, brownies and mints
  • Dried leaf or bud for smoking
  • Oils for adding to tea, food and honey
  • Vaporing
  • Creams
  • Tinctures that can be used sublingually

Many doctors will, however, prefer that the patient does not smoke anything. So the use of oils, sprays and other edibles could still be the best option for consumption.

Cannabinoid Drugs

There are 2 synthetic drugs manufactured based on the compounds present in marijuana that have been approved for public consumption in the US.

  • Dronabinol: This is a gelatin capsule that contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC and approved by the FDA for the treatment of vomiting and nausea caused by chemotherapy during cancer treatment. It is also used to combat poor appetite and weight loss in patients who have cancer.

  • Nabilone: This is a synthetic cannabinoid and works exactly like THC. It can be ingested orally in the treatment of vomiting and nausea caused by chemotherapy. It is mostly used when other drugs have failed.

Interaction between Marijuana and other Drugs

Just as it is with other medicines, the use of marijuana with other medications may cause the amplification of the side effects of these medications. It is important to have a discussion on the use of medicines and other supplements with your doctor so that you could be briefed on the potential side effects of medical cannabis when used with other medications.