December 12th, 2017
There are several reasons why patients that have cancer resort to recommendations/certifications for medical marijuana. There is still uncertainty about whether cannabis can effectively cure or treat cancer. However, there are several ways in which cannabis has been proven to have benefits for patients that suffer from cancer. This article covers nine ways in which cannabis has helped patients.
1. Pain Relief
One of the most debilitating effects of cancer and its treatments is chronic pain. This chronic pain is also one of the reasons why patients try to acquire recommendations for medical cannabis. According to a survey that was conducted using 271 Canadian cancer patients who consumed medical cannabis, 60% of the patients preferred the use of cannabis to manage their symptoms, compared to other pharmaceutical drugs.
Out of those 60%, 30% reported their preference for cannabis over prescription painkillers. Doctors frequently prescribe painkillers to cancer patients for managing their pain, in spite of the fact that cannabis, which is considered to be non-toxic and less addictive, is available as an option for potential treatment.
2. Alleviation of Nausea and Vomiting
Radiation and chemotherapy treatments are, without a doubt, one of the most grueling treatments for cancer. Extreme vomiting and nausea are two of the most crippling side effects of the treatment. Numerous studies on humans have revealed that a number of cannabis compounds possess antiemetic properties and can reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, successfully.
These cannabis compounds have been extremely successful to the extent that there are pharmaceutical companies which have synthesized versions of these, so that they can be legally sold to patients who are undergoing therapy. The drug is known as Marinol.
3. Irritation of Skin
Itchiness and skin rashes are common ailments that patients undergoing traditional cancer treatments suffer from. Cannabinoids are natural compounds that occur in cannabis, that possess potent anti-inflammatory properties. This makes them extremely helpful for soothing moderate allergic reactions such as allergic dermatitis.
Research conducted through interviews of cancer patients who were undergoing treatments that utilized medical cannabis, revealed that patients experienced relief from itchiness. Most of the patients that were interviewed, consumed the cannabis via edibles or smoking. However, cannabis can be applied in the form of salves or balms as well. Topical application of cannabis does not cause its psychotropic effects.
4. Managing Weight and Appetite
One of the major side effects of chemotherapy is a severe loss of appetite as well, apart from nausea, pain and vomiting. Cannabis is well known for causing “munchies” or hunger pangs upon consumption. This can be a welcome relief for patients who have cancer and are undergoing chemotherapy.
Cannabis not only interacts with receptor systems in the cells that trigger a release of ghrelin, which is known as the main hunger hormone, it also stimulates the pleasure centers that are triggered in the brain, while responding to food. This enables cancer patients to feel hungrier as well as derive more pleasure out of eating.
5. Overall Well-Being and Mental Health
Severe illnesses, especially life threatening ones, can severely have an impact on an individual’s mental health. Cannabis is well known for its mood stimulating and euphoric properties.
Cancer patients that suffer from mental health issues frequently opt for strains of cannabis that have a high concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The cannabinoid is psychotropic and is responsible for the “high” that comes with consuming cannabis. However, it is postulated that even the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) improves the mood of patients and results in a sense of well-being.
Studies on rodents by scientists have revealed that CBD results in rapid boosts of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter associated with the sensation of pleasure. Popular antidepressant drugs frequently target serotonin for their effects. Usually antidepressants take weeks for their effects to manifest, these studies show that the positive effects of CBD manifest after a single dose.
THC in lower doses has also been seen to increase the levels of serotonin, which give it an antidepressant effect.
Consumption of cannabis is popularly known to cause drowsiness. Certain cultivars of cannabis have a greater likelihood of causing drowsiness compared to others. As a general rule of thumb, indica strains or varieties that come under the Kush umbrella supposedly encourage sedation and sleepiness.
Research conducted on THC reveals that the cannabinoid helps patients in falling asleep more quickly and for a longer duration. It is also theorized that consumption of cannabis extends the duration for which a person is in deep sleep. Deep sleep is considered to be the phase of the sleep cycle which is restorative.
7. Digestive Problems
Conventional cancer treatments also cause the side effects of diarrhea and constipation. Constipation is typically associated with bacterial imbalances that occur in the intestinal tract. According to research, cannabis compounds can change the proportion of bacteria in the intestinal tract, which leads to a more balanced ecosystem internally.
The sensation of being “plugged up” is also an occurring side effect of cancer medicine, especially pain medications that contain opioids. As stated above, several cancer patients prefer consuming cannabis over painkillers that are prescribed, which allows them to decrease the dose of the pharmaceuticals and subsequently easing the associated side effects.
Inflammation in the intestines leads to diarrhea, and can be a potential side effect of conventional treatments for cancer. According to research that was published at the National Academy of Sciences Proceedings, consuming cannabis can result in decreasing the inflammation that is responsible for causing intestinal distress.
8. Chronic fatigue
Different strains of cannabis have different effects; there are some that induce drowsiness while others can cause stimulation and an increase in activeness. Even though every strain of cannabis is unique, the sativa category of cannabis strains is generally regarded as causing stimulating effects that are similar to the effects that a cup of coffee has in the morning. The sativa strains can thus be an effective antidote to lethargy and apathy.
There are currently no clinical studies that have proven this conclusively, but it has been shown that symptoms related to chronic fatigue can be controlled through the use of cannabis. As mentioned above, consumption of cannabis can allow patients to stay in deep sleep for longer, which effectively combats symptoms of chronic fatigue.
9. Anti-Cancer Properties
One of the most remarkable properties of the herb is its anti-cancer properties, in addition to the relief it provides from most symptoms of cancer. Cannabis compounds have shown to possess the ability to kill tumor and cancer cells. This ability is being extensively explored by research institutions and biopharmaceutical companies.
In studies conducted in the lab and animals, THC and CBD have been observed to cause cell death and prevent cancer cells from spreading. THC and CBD have also been seen to successfully curb the formation of blood vessels in tumor cells.