Cancer and its treatments can cause a range of challenging symptoms that CBD and THC can help to alleviate. However, cannabis cannot cure cancer.
As any cancer survivor will attest, chemotherapy might have saved their life, but it is physically and psychologically very difficult. There are loads of side effects, such as ongoing nausea and vomiting, cognitive problems (‘chemo brain’), oral mucositis (ulcers), weight loss, fatigue, pain, hair loss, a metallic taste to food leading to a loss of appetite, insomnia, and depression and anxiety.
In the effort to save or extend life, chemotherapy may be the only answer for many. This means that patients need ways to manage the unpleasant symptoms so there is some quality of life during treatment. Luckily, in NZ, medicinal marijuana has been approved to help in a variety of ways.
CBD and THC Can Reduce Pain
A meta-study on chronic pain treatment using cannabis showed that there was moderate evidence that it can help to treat chronic pain. Further, a study showed that people who didn’t respond to conventional opioid pain relief options experienced relief from a combination of THC and CBD. More than 40% of the participants noted an improvement in their symptoms.
Feeling nauseous is a very common side effect of chemotherapy. A meta study showed that cannabis can be useful in minimising nausea and vomiting from cancer treatments.
Among all of the symptoms of cancer and its treatment, many patients lose their appetite, leading to weight loss. Recreational cannabis use is reported to produce ‘the munchies’, as a result of the THC. Researchers are looking into the likelihood that THC can help to increase appetite in those undergoing chemotherapy. There is evidence that it could help, although more studies are needed.
Reducing Depression and Anxiety Symptoms
There are a number of studies supporting the claim that cannabidiol can help to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 2020 University of Auckland study showed that many sufferers reported a significant improvement of their depressive symptoms.
Cancer patients regularly report trouble sleeping due to a range of problems like nausea, pain, and depressive thoughts. This side effect can continue long after treatment has ceased, with many sufferers describing insomnia that lasts up to five years afterwards. Poor sleep leads to mental health problems, immune suppression, and mood problems, so it is vital to get good, regular sleep.
There are studies that show:
- CBD can limit cortisol release, lowering stress which impedes sleep
- THC can make users feel drowsy and reduce dreams/ nightmares
- Cannabinoids can work as an anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce pain and help sleep
Many cancer sufferers report using CBD oil to treat insomnia, and this is something a cannabis clinic will be experienced in diagnosing and prescribing for.
Other Uses of CBD with Cancer
- There are a few studies showing promise that CBD can help to minimise pain and the likelihood of oral mucositis.
- There was a study of almost 3000 cancer sufferers in palliative care who were taking medicinal cannabis. In general, patients were using THC for sleep problems, pain, nausea, and lack of appetite. After six months, almost ¼ of the patients had died, and 18.8% of people had stopped treatment. However, 95% of the people who responded to the questionnaire and were continuing to use THC reported an improvement of their symptoms. This also helped many patients reduce the amounts of conventional medications they were taking too.
- There seems to be neuroprotective effects of CBD, preventing brain tissue from chemotherapy and radiation damage.
There may be protective effects of CBD on cardiac organs and operations while on chemotherapy
Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?
While cannabis, THC, and CBD do not cure cancer, it can help the sufferer manage their symptoms. There are studies underway to investigate the use of cannabis to slow or reverse tumour growth. Until there is evidence to suggest there is a benefit of this, the best outcomes are still from conventional medicines and chemotherapy. So far, most studies have been completed in animals or Petri dishes, and some tumour types seem to speed the growth of cancer, and human trials are required.
How to Live with Cancer and Chemotherapy?
As well as CBD treatments, patients are recommended to try and live a healthy lifestyle. It can be incredibly challenging when you feel awful, but improving diet, regular sleep, reduction of stress, and exercising can also help with general wellbeing. There also is a range of modern conventional medicines to help with side effects.
It does seem like there are synergies between the use of CBD, THC and chemotherapy, and this is an avenue worth exploring to minimise unpleasant symptoms and increase the quality of life. CBD and THC seem to work together to make leukaemia cells more sensitive to the cytotoxic effects of chemotherapy drugs, increasing the effectiveness of the chemo.
Contact us at The Pain Clinic to talk about the options available and whether this is the best option for you or your loved one. There can be side effects, especially with high doses of THC. There can be some treatments for cancer that become less effective when using cannabis. There can also be drug contraindications. We strongly encourage you to seek professional assistance from a cannabis clinic to ensure you get the correct dosage and type of treatment to ensure effectiveness without side effects.
Medical marijuana in NZ could be the future of cancer treatment or as a major way to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy. The biggest barrier and problem with the use of cannabis and CBD is the stigma attached to the use and the unwillingness by medical practitioners to incorporate less orthodox therapies. Some professionals feel that they lack knowledge to recommend the use of THC or CBD, while others do not understand the efficacy or potential of the treatment. We can help. Call us.