In traditional medicine, cannabis has been used for thousands of years a wide array of ailments. One of the first places it has found a niche in modern Western medicine, however, is in treating the side effects of chemotherapy.
And there a lot them: hair loss, oral sores, gastrointestinal disturbances, extreme nausea, loss of appetite, nerve pain, dry skin and itching, and, not unsurprisingly, depression.
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Anecdotally speaking, there’s a lot of items on that list that cannabis can treat—all of them, in fact, except for hair loss. In terms of what we can prove, however, that’s a different story.
The FDA has approved synthetic THC (marketed under the brand names Marinol and Cesamet) for nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy and as an appetite stimulant. It has also approved those drugs for treating neuropathic pain associated with HIV/AIDS, but not for chemo.
The general position among physicians when it comes to cannabis and pain relief is that the plant is mildly effective, but that it should be used only after other options have failed. (You can read the consensus opinion and judge its support by reading over this review of cannabis studies sponsored by the American Medical Association and published in 2015.)
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While it’s true that cannabis’s pain-relieving properties are not profound, neither are its side effects. And that’s increasingly becoming a acceptable tradeoff for patients who otherwise would be prescribed an opioid, one of the blockbuster pain relievers that, we are increasingly becoming aware, have an equally monumental downside, which includes profound addiction and overdose. In fact, a recent study shows an encouraging trend that medical marijuana states have seen a significant decline in opioid prescriptions.
For More On Marijuana And Chemotherapy:
Newsweek’s cancer issue has a patient’s-eye view on the relief cannabis provides from the rigors of chemo.
And if you’re interested in finding out more about the more disputed aspects of cannabis medicine in cancer treatments, try this.