Why More Cancer Patients Could Be Turning to Cannabis in the Future

12 January, 2023
Why More Cancer Patients Could Be Turning to Cannabis in the Future

The world we live in is changing in a positive way for cannabis consumers. Who would have imagined 50 years ago that one day, medical professionals would be studying cannabis for its therapeutic qualities? As it turns out, we've learned that this magic plant may offer a lot for medical consumers. We know that cannabis is believed to help with an array of ailments, from emotional troubles like depression and anxiety to physical issues like pain and inflammation. We also know that more cancer patients are turning to cannabis to help with their symptoms and to ease the effects of treatment. But just what does it do and how can it assist someone who has received a cancer diagnosis? Let's find out.

How Cannabis Helps With Cancer


The anatomy of cannabis is well known by now. The plant's cannabinoids work with the endocannabinoid system to offer different benefits depending on the combination of CBD and THC. Research suggests that CBD can be an antioxidant that may lessen inflammation, while THC is believed to reduce nausea and pain. Cancer patients experiencing any of these symptoms or side effects from chemotherapy may turn to cannabis for relief, and those who do are often less dependent on traditional pain meds. 

Studies are beginning to reveal compelling evidence that cannabis can be an effective treatment. THC and CBD have been able to successfully combat cancer cells in controlled laboratory experiments, and scientists have also seen positive results in animal subjects suffering from cancer. We've even begun seeing trials with human cancer patients, which are demonstrating that cannabis is a safe treatment method. 

In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine analyzed a collection of available trials on cannabis consumption in cancer patients. In its review, the organization found convincing evidence supporting the plant's effectiveness in relieving pain, as well as the nausea and vomiting that result from chemotherapy. While the medical community as a whole is hesitant to give its seal of approval, many doctors do believe in its effectiveness. Even so, more research needs to be conducted to determine exactly how effective it is. Until then, it's not advised to depend solely on cannabis for cancer treatment. 


It's Been an Uphill Battle for Cannabis Researchers

Historically, cannabis had been widely used for medicinal purposes until the 1930s when lawmakers sought to make the plant illegitimate. By 1970, its classification as a Schedule I controlled substance was bad news for both the cannabis community and the medical community. 

Unfortunately, marijuana (the type of cannabis containing psychoactive chemicals) is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the FDA. This means that according to federal law, it's illegal to sell, buy, or prescribe this type of cannabis in states that have not legalized adult use and/or medical use. 

Because legalization of this plant at the state level is a relatively recent turn, studies of its effectiveness against cancer symptoms are limited in number. This means that a lot of medical professionals are currently hesitant to fully advise cannabis consumption as a treatment method. With that said, the information available is suggesting that medical cannabis could be beneficial for cancer patients.

While marijuana may not yet be federally legal, there are some FDA-approved pharmaceuticals that are made from lab-generated THC. These include Dronabinol and Nabilone, either of which can be taken by cancer patients to ease symptoms from chemotherapy, and Cannabidiol, which is effective for managing seizures in individuals suffering from Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.


The Future of Cannabis as a Cancer Treatment 

As it stands, The American Cancer Society remains neutral on the subject of cannabis, however, the organization acknowledges that the medical community needs more effective treatments for cancer and the side effects resulting from chemotherapy. We do believe that cannabis could be the solution. And as The American Cancer Society points out, as long as it remains a Schedule I controlled substance, finding the answers we need will be difficult. The organization does encourage lawmakers to work on making it easier to legally research the therapeutic potential of this plant. 

In 2020, the National Cancer Institute wanted to find out how many cancer patients actually turned to cannabis. Interestingly, this wound up revealing that while roughly 75% of the survey participants were open to investigating cannabis as an option, less than 15% actually got any information from their doctors. But it's also not the fault of those medical professionals, since they don't feel there is an adequate amount of information available.

Indeed, the fact that cannabis remains federally illegal and the resulting lack of data has posed quite a problem for discovering its true effectiveness. As such, it's not as accessible to those who could potentially benefit. But if you live in a state where medical consumption is legal, you can apply for a medical card. Unfortunately, with the processes currently in place, this can be a costly endeavor.

The good news is that there is hope. The Drug Enforcement Agency recently made an announcement that more research facilities will be receiving approval to grow and study cannabis. Until then, researchers remain diligent, doing the best they can to conduct studies while collaborating with dispensaries to gather more data.

If you or someone you know is a cancer patient interested in experimenting with cannabis, it's important to have a conversation with a doctor to make sure it's the right course of action. It is possible for those taking prescription medications to experience intense side effects when throwing cannabis into the mix. 

As more doors open up for cannabis research, we will get a clearer picture of what this plant can really do for cancer patients. Perhaps then, those who are battling cancer will have a more effective way to find relief from their symptoms.