Cancer and Cannabis
When I was fourteen years old I lost my grandfather to pancreatic cancer. It was one of the most confusing experiences I have ever lived through: watching someone I love dearly become smaller, quieter, and ultimately fade away because of an illness. He was a man with simple taste, he loved to cook, watch Formula One, and cuddle with his dog. Over time he grew uncomfortable in his favorite resting chair where he watched races. It broke my heart to watch him lose this battle. In his final weeks he contemplated renting a Porsche – a lifelong dream of his he had never dared to make happen. Understandably my grandfather refused any additional medicine or assistance after several draining rounds of chemotherapy. However, even in small doses, cannabis became his source of personal freedom. For pain management, regulating his appetite, and overall improving his quality of life, we found cannabis to be the one thing that made him want to get out of bed in the morning.
I’ve done further research on the benefits cannabis has for cancer patients, and here is what I found:
According to the National Cancer Institute, it has been proven that cannabis helps alleviate symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatments, such as pain, nausea, and vomiting- all things my grandfather experienced once diagnosed.
Two key components of cannabis (THC) and (CBD) have been shown to have both analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety effects. Together, these compounds provide relief for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, which is an exceptionally painful and debilitating experience.
A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that cancer patients who used cannabis reported a significant reduction in pain, as well as an improvement in mood and quality of life. Another study published in the European Journal of Pain found that cannabis-based medicines were effective in treating cancer-related pain that was not adequately managed by other treatments.
In addition to pain relief, cannabis may also help alleviate nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that cannabis was more effective than a placebo in reducing nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Despite these potential benefits, there are still concerns about the safety and legality of using cannabis for medicinal purposes. However, some states in the US have legalized medical marijuana, and the National Cancer Institute recognizes the potential benefits of cannabis for cancer patients.
After doing hours of research, I have come to the conclusion that small amounts of cannabis can provide relief to cancer patients. Because of the naturalness of the plant itself, these healing properties have been proven to alleviate pain and anxiety whilst improving a patient’s quality of life.
National Cancer Institute. (2021). Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – Health Professional Version. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/cannabis-pdq
Johnson, J. R., Burnell-Nugent, M., Lossignol, D., Ganae-Motan, E. D., Potts, R., & Fallon, M. T. (2010). Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of THC:CBD extract and THC extract in patients with intractable cancer-related pain. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 39(2), 167-179. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2009.06.008
Portenoy, R. K., Ganae-Motan, E. D., Allende, S., Yanagihara, R., Shaiova, L. A., Weinstein, S., … Correa, R. (2012). Nabiximols for opioid-treated cancer patients with poorly-controlled chronic pain: A randomized, placebo-controlled, graded-dose trial. Journal of Pain, 13(5), 438-449. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2012.01.003
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. The National Academies of Sciences