Medical Marijuana Helps Treat Undesired Effects of Chemotherapy

Too Bad Former President Carter Won’t Have Easy Access to it

According to the National Cancer Institute, there’ll be an estimated
1,658,370 new cases of cancer in

alone. The World Health Organization even has a grimmer number: new
cases of cancer will rise to about 22 million in the next two
. Cancer
has become one of the most burdensome diseases to ever plague modern

In August 2015, former President Jimmy Carter announced that he has
become one of the latest people to face the burden of this disease and
the subsequent horrors associated with its therapy. The CNN

notes that the former president had a surgery last May to remove a
"small mass" on his liver, only to find out after several tests that the
mass turned out to be Stage IV melanoma, a type of cancer that develops
in the cells that produce the skin pigment, melanin.

This news came on the heels of another news

that details the benefits of medical marijuana to people who are facing
the horrors of chemotherapy. Not exactly the kind of therapy former
President Carter opted for. However, the benefits of medical cannabis
are worth emphasizing, given the range of undesirable side effects of
cancer therapies, particularly chemotherapy.

Perhaps one of the most popular applications of medical marijuana is its
use in reducing nausea and vomiting, a common side effect of
chemotherapy. In the US, two drugs based on marijuana compounds have
been approved for medical use. The first is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),
an active cannabis chemical that takes on a capsule form in Dronabinol
(Marinol®). This drug has been approved by the FDA since 1985 to treat
nausea and vomiting. Interestingly, Dronabinol also stimulate appetite,
helping you improve your food intake and maintain a healthy body weight,
which allows you to function better and tolerate the effects of therapy.
Similarly, Nabilone (Cesamet®), a synthetic cannabinoid, is also used to
treat nausea and vomiting when no other drugs work.

Another common application of medical marijuana is in its use to relieve
pain. The evidence that supports its beneficial effects on a wide range
of pain disorders is well established. Thus, if you’re feeling cancer
pain, medical cannabis could be a welcomed part of your treatment
regimen. In fact, a research published in
done by Dr. Mellar
Davis, Director of Research of the Harry R. Horvitz Center for
Palliative Medicine, assessed Nabilone’s efficacy in treating nausea and
vomiting as well as in relieving pain by reviewing available treatment
trials and other published literature on the subject. The research shows
that while the drug is not as effective in acute pain, it has benefits
in alleviating neuropathic pain.

Further, a new drug, Nabiximols, a mouth spray that contains equal
amount of cannabidiol (CBD) and THC, has been used in many countries to
treat neuropathic pain. Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany are a
few of the developed countries that approved the use of this drug in the
treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) spasticity.

Cancer and chemotherapy will also take its toll on your mood. Many
patients report taking the downward spiral to anxiety and depression,
which makes cannabis a good antidote because of its anti-anxiety and
antidepressant properties. In a
study headed by
Mateus Bergamaschi from the University of Sao Paulo, it is found that
CBD reduces the anxiety of participants subjected to a simulated public
speaking test. The clinical trial of this study involved 12 participants
with social anxiety disorder (SAD), who received 600 mg CBD; 12
participants with SAD who received placebo; and 12 participants without
SAD were used as healthy control.

A team from the University of Mississippi, headed by Abir T. El-Alfy,
also conducted another study in
, which
sought to assess the antidepressant-like effect of a form of THC and
other cannabinoids on mice. The study’s findings reported that
phytocannabinoids exhibit antidepressant-like effects in animal models.

While numerous studies provide evidence in the efficacy of medical
marijuana in alleviating the undesired side effects of chemotherapy, the
real controversy lies in its benefit in treating cancer itself. So far,
the medical community is divided on this issue; but current studies
abound to establish the cancer-fighting activity of cannabis. A 2009
conducted by
a research team at Complutense University and University of Anglea in
the UK, headed by Dr. Peter McCormick, induced human breast tumors on
mice to find out if THC will inhibit the growth of the tumor. The
findings show that THC exhibited anti-cancer properties.

There’s wealth of scientific data and anecdotal evidence supporting the
use of medical cannabis in treating cancer-related symptoms and common
side effects of chemotherapy. Furthermore, there’s an explosion of
further scientific studies geared towards providing evidence that
medical marijuana may be the wonder drug that many cancer patients have
been waiting for.

Back in 1979, former President Jimmy Carter ruffled some feathers
following his controversial stance in decriminalizing medical marijuana,
which makes it even more regrettable that he won’t have easy access to
it while undergoing cancer therapy. This is because while Haleigh’s Hope
Act, Georgia’s medical cannabis law, was enacted recently, it falls
short for many patients with debilitating conditions. Granted, the law
may be a step in the right direction, but patients from Georgia,
including the former president, will still have to go through hurdles to
access medical cannabis.

Photo Credit.


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