Is Medical Marijuana Helpful in Cancer Treatment?

What a topic! It probably springs to mind immediately, “Hold on, this is illegal and a drug used by kids.” Well, yes in Australia it is illegal but attitudes need to change and more research into the medicinal effects need to be conducted. If a potent cure exists or valuable, effective medicine to reduce pain and nausea in cancer patients, it is essential that the government needs to promote more research into this plant.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) published a recent report on Cannabinoids (PDQ®) from the cannabis plant suggesting it has huge potential as a medicine in certain cancers. , The American NCI which is part of the Federal government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated that marijuana “inhibited the survival of both estrogen receptor–positive and estrogen receptor–negative breast cancer cell lines.”

The same report showed marijuana slows or even stops the growth of certain lung cancer cells and indicates that cannabinoids may provide “risk reduction and treatment of colorectal cancer.” These findings are truly powerful.

In Australia and many other countries the plant is still considered a harmful drug and remains illegal. Unfortunately there is still a tremendous public misconception about the potential legitimate use of medical cannabis as treatment for seriously ill patients. The drug is still considered a street “drug” that is used for recreational purposes. The label of being a dangerous, illegal drug will remain without the change of laws and further research into the potential medicinal use.

In the US there is still a fight for the legal prescribing of marijuana in dispensaries. The topic is still controversial but cities that ban dispensaries are in denying patients the ability to obtain a medicine the NIH says is helpful to reduce pain, manage nausea, stimulate appetite and now help treat some cancers.marijuana for cancer

In the last decade growing evidence is contributing cigarette smoke to one cause for developing Lung cancer. The NCI report examined incidences of Lung cancer in patients who smoke marijuana rather than ingesting it orally. The report investigated whether there was a higher risk of lung and certain digestive system cancers associated with either method of consumption of the cannabinoids. According to the government report, 19 studies “failed to demonstrate statistically significant associations between marijuana inhalation and lung cancer.”

The Australian government also appears to be avoiding the growing evidence of potential benefit of such herbal medicines. Clearly investing more money into researching the possible uses of such herbs could save millions if not billions of dollars for the Australian government healthcare costs. Instead support for the creation of more chemical/synthetic drugs are given priority over emerging medicines that have less side-effects and cost less to produce without pharmaceutical patents.

Marijuana and the constituents within the plant have more than anti-cancer properties. Separate research reported marijuana appears to have “profound nerve-protective and brain-enhancing properties that could potentially treat many neurodegenerative disorders.” The US National Cancer Institute reported cannabis may also be effective for treatment of insomnia and referenced a placebo-controlled study in cancer patients showing increased quality of sleep and relaxation in those treated with tetrahydrocannabinol, an active constituent in marijuana.

The potential benefits of cannabinoids for use in a range of conditions stretch far beyond just cancer. Other conditions where patients suffer from chronic pain that affect their sleep could also benefit from the marijuana plant. Combined pharmaceutical plus cannabinoid treatment could potentially give better outcomes for patient management. Further research into the safety, side-effect and drug interactions needs to be conducted and can only be conducted with a broader interest in this area.

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