The need for safe, non-addictive pain relief
opioid addiction epidemic has surged in the last few years, doctors and
patients have become more interested in alternatives to the usual prescription
medications for pain relief.
patients have also developed an increasing interest in pain management and
relief from the more debilitating side effects of traditional cancer
treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy.
trends have led to the legalization of medical marijuana. It is a sturdy plant
that can grow almost anywhere in the world, and all parts of it are useful for
medicine, including stems, seeds and leaves.
An age-old medicine
has been used in herbal remedies for thousands of years. It contains many
beneficial phytochemicals (active ingredients in plants).
particular, there are 2 cannabinoids of interest, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol
(often referred to as THC [think H for high]), and cannabidiol (CBD [think C
for calm]). The one produces pain relief and a “high,” or euphoria. The other
reduces inflammation and pain, and might even boost the immune system.
states have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. It produces a sense of
well-being, relieves pain and nausea, and contains antioxidants that fight
disease and the process of aging when eaten rather than smoked.
help treat seizures, muscle spasms, anxiety and paranoia, and counterbalances
the “high” caused by THC.
How it is used
is usually smoked, often with tobacco, leading some to argue that this makes it
dangerous. However, a study of male cannabis smokers as compared with cigarette
smokers showed that the cannabis smokers were more than 40% less likely to
develop bladder cancer than the tobacco smokers (bladder cancer is one of the 9
cancers definitively linked to cigarette smoking).
cannabis release the THC into the bloodstream quickly, producing a rapid high,
but one which also fades quickly. The CBD content is pretty much burned off in
cannabis, such as in baked goods or bread stuffing, releases the THC more
slowly over a period of several hours and once it is metabolized, produces a
mood-altering effect that relieves pain for hours.
Cannabis for cancer
have been some surprising study results. The first is it slows tumor growth.
The second seems to indicate that it reduces the blood flow to tumors, thus
starving them and preventing their growth and the spread of cancer (metastasis)
to adjoining issue, and to other parts of the body.
Current drugs available
(Marinol®) is a capsule containing THC and used to treat nausea and vomiting
caused by chemotherapy.
(Cesamet®) is a synthetic cannabinoid similar to THC and used in the same way
is a mouth spray available in Canada the EU, and used for cancer pain. It is a
combination of THC and CBD. It is being studied for approval in the US.