The use of marijuana/cannabis for medical purposes dates back centuries when herbs and plants were the only available treatments for different illnesses and injuries.
It became widely used in Western medicine as a pain reliever and as a remedy for reducing spasms and inflammation in the 19th century. Since then, marijuana has become a household name- not only as a psychoactive drug, but as a potential cancer treatment.
Medical Marijuana and Cancer
Cancer patients have turned to marijuana as a more effective and natural remedy for alleviating the side effects that come with aggressive cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
A number of preclinical studies and a limited number of clinical trials have found that it actually helps ease moderate to severe pain, nausea, allows for better quality sleep and relaxation, and even reduces anxiety.
Patients who use the drug say that its benefits go way more than just alleviating cancer side-effects. To many, it helps them stay more positive and improve their life quality. Staying more positive basically gives them the strength to fight the disease and helps them become more optimistic.
According to experts, the ability to manage these side effects is a crucial part in ensuring that the cancer treatment is effective.
Dronabinol (Marinol) and Nabilone (Cesamet) are two drugs based on cannabis compounds that have been approved for medical use in the US.
Dronabinol contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and has been approved for the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Nabilone is a synthetic cannabinoid that pretty much acts as THC and is also used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
Now besides relieving symptoms associated with cancer treatment side effects, there are claims that cannabis can cure cancer. The evidence to this is however inconclusive as many barriers to a comprehensive research has prevented scientists from testing the medicinal plant in cancer patients.
Various preclinical studies have however looked into potential anti-tumor effects of marijuana. According to these studies, certain cannabis compounds including THC and CBD (cannabidiol) help;
- Trigger cancer cell death (apoptosis) while protecting normal cells.
- Stop cells from dividing
- Reduce or stop cancer cells from spreading to neighboring tissue.
- Suffocate blood vessels that feed tumors while protecting normal cells.
- Slow cancer cells growth
A research conducted at California Pacific Medical Center found that CBD in medical marijuana has the ability to switch off the DNA that causes different types of cancers(1).
So it basically combats tumor growth at the DNA-level.
Medical Marijuana and Chemotherapy
According to various clinical studies, CBD can make chemotherapy more effective by increasing the rate of cancer cells without affecting normal cells.
Other studies have found both THC and CBD to be effective in enhancing the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs such as temozolomide.
Just like many drugs, medical marijuana comes with a number of side-effects. Some patients may exhibit symptoms such as increased heart rate, paranoia, dizziness, slowed digestion, and hallucinations.
However, some of these side effects often occur depending on the amount used and the strain used.
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