Understanding the Role of Marijuana in Cancer Treatment

There has been an endless discussion in the international media regarding the medical use of marijuana, which is otherwise also known as pot, grass, cannabis and ganja. Although very effective, there has been substantial abuse of this plant and its derivatives, leading to many severe effects. Drug abuse is a crime and therefore to curb this abuse, marijuana has been made illegal in the US. However, it is important to study its medicinal role in cancer treatment and judge whether medical marijuana should be made legal.

The medical use of marijuana has its own limitations since different strains of the plants have different effects and it becomes difficult to predict the effects. Therefore, certain substances have been isolated from the plant which can be used in optimum doses either alone or in combination with other drugs to deliver a predictable effect. Some of the marijuana plant substances (cannabinoids) have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to relieve many cancer and AIDS symptoms such as nausea, vomiting etc. and also increase appetite.

Medicinal Uses of Marijuana for Cancer

Marijuana has been endorsed as a drug that helps relieve vomiting, pain, nausea, and even stimulate appetite. According to certain supporters of marijuana, it is also claimed to have anti-bacterial properties, restrain the growth of tumor and also increase the airways that helps in breathing during asthma attack.

In its crude form, the stems, leaves and flowers of a marijuana plant are crushed and dried and then smoked via pipes or home-made cigarettes. It is also made into a concentrated form of sticky liquid known as hashish or hash oil. However, for medicinal purposes, compounds of marijuana are in chemical drugs. The two most potent active components in marijuana are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Studies and Evidences

Researchers across the world have been conducting researches to identify the effectiveness of marijuana and its compounds for the cure of cancer.

In certain countries, drugs containing THC and CBD have been approved for relieving cancer pain. In the US too, clinical trials are being conducted to test the effectiveness of the compounds for alleviating cancer pain. Results in a few trials have shown that those who took marijuana medicines took lesser number of pain relievers.

A study conducted to assess the effectiveness of whole plant extract of cannabis with specific amounts of its compounds showed that it was extremely effective in relieving pain in cancer patients who were in the advanced stage and who had extreme pain even after the intake of strong opioids. The study was a randomized, placebo-controlled study.

A review of studies published between the years 1975-1996 suggested that THC administered by mouth helped in reducing nausea which is associated with cancer treatment.

Recently scientists have stated that THC and CBD slowed the growth of cancer cells when tested in laboratory settings. When tested on animals, it was seen that cannabinoids helped to reduce the spread of cancer, thus lowering the risk.

In order to further research its effectiveness, marijuana is being studied by researchers and many clinical trials are underway.

Side Effects of Marijuana

Although there is a widespread agreement on the effectiveness of cannabis, many known after- effects have been identified by researchers. These include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart beat
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucination
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Slower digestion

Furthermore, long-term smoking of cannabis has been associated with many harmful effects on the reproductive system and the endocrine system.

To conclude, it is apparent that marijuana is an effective substance that can have many benefits for those suffering from cancer. However, its abuse can lead to many complications and has some major side-effects. Further research is needed in this respect to identify the full potential of the substance.

Author Bio: Sameer Gupta  is a medical writer who writes well-researched, in-depth cancer articles which provide relevant information to help patients combat the deadly disease