Medical Marijuana and Cancer – Colorado Springs MMJ Doctors Weigh In
Humans have used cannabis to alleviate countless ailments during our millennia-long relationship with the plant. We’ve applied the plant to a wide range of problems, from soothing aches and pains to helping sleep. But some of the medical marijuana’s most fascinating and promising traits may be its ability to unlock new ways of helping patients deal with cancer.
Medical marijuana’s possible cancer-fighting abilities are hotly contested. While cannabis has shown some promise against cancer, there’s also plenty of misinformation out there. In this post, our own Colorado Springs MMJ doctors will help separate fact from fiction with medical marijuana and cancer.
Cannabis and Cancer
Take a look around the cannabis world, and you’re bound to find someone claiming that “weed cures cancer.” But the medical establishment still hasn’t jumped on board with that sentiment.
As a Schedule I drug, the US government’s official stance is that marijuana offers no medical benefits whatsoever. Some cannabis activists may argue that the Feds are trying to keep the lid on cannabis’ therapeutic properties to maintain the current status quo for “big pharma.”
The truth of the situation, like pretty much everything, lies somewhere between these two extremes.
What Does the Data Say?
Researchers have explored cannabis’ ability to combat cancer for almost 50 years. In 1975, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute investigated the effects of cannabinoids in mice with leukemia and lung cancer.
The researchers concluded that both THC and CBN, a minor cannabinoid, had positive effects. They discovered that after 20 days of oral THC treatment, lung cancer tumors decreased in size. Mice treated with both THC and CBN also lived 36 percent longer than untreated mice.
The THC/CBN concoction didn’t reduce the growth rate of the mice’s leukemia. However, it did appear prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.
Finally, data from the study seemed to suggest that CBD has no effect on cancer growth.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much research into cannabis and cancer since then. The few studies that have occurred seem to have somewhat contradictory results. Tests on mice have shown promise in reducing the spread of cancer cells. But recent studies on humans seem to show that THC has no effect on cancer whatsoever.
The scientific community’s ganja gridlock hasn’t stopped individuals from performing their own research, though. One particularly famous anecdotal example of cannabis’ possible cancer-fighting properties is Rick Simpson Oil.
What is Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)?
Rick Simpson Oil, also known as RSO, is a type of topical cannabis extract salve designed specifically to combat cancer. It’s named after Rick Simpson, a Canadian man who claims the extract helped him beat skin cancer.
Simpson’s doctor diagnosed him with skin cancer in 2003. Against his doctor’s advice, he began researching Cannabis’ cancer-fighting potential. Simpson devised a recipe for what would become RSO by himself and applied the salve to cancerous spots on his skin. He says that his cancer disappeared within a few days.
Simpson’s story is inspiring. But unfortunately, there’s just not enough research out there to confirm his claims. One thing is for sure, though: Rick Simpson is no snake oil salesman. He’s not attempting to make any money off RSO. Instead, he’s posted his complete RSO recipe on his website so anyone can make it at home. His recipe features a high THC content and low CBD in comparison to many other extracts for medical purposes.
Cannabis and Palliative Care
Despite all that disagreement, there’s one cancer-related application for cannabis that most medical professionals can get behind. Cannabis is generally accepted to be effective in palliative care. Palliative care is a field of medicine focused on making patients comfortable as they die.
It might not be a pleasant outlook. But palliative care can vastly improve quality of life for patients in the late stages of many terminal illnesses. That includes cancer. Unfortunately, the US isn’t exactly at the forefront of cannabis palliative care research. Good thing our northern neighbors did the research for us.
Data shows that about 9 percent of Canadians used marijuana for palliative care in the first six months of 2019. In fact, the Canadian government currently approves two pharmaceutical drugs made from synthesized THC and CBD for palliative care in cancer patients. THC and CBD can help patients manage symptoms like nausea, vomiting, pain, depression, and anxiety. These may be a result of a patient’s cancer or side-effects of their cancer treatments themselves. Cannabis can also improve appetite, which helps patients maintain overall vitality.
Medical marijuana isn’t perfect for palliative care, though. Remember, cannabis has thousands of chemical components aside from THC and CBD.
Some of those components can affect a liver enzyme called cytokine P450. This enzyme helps the body break down 90 percent of drugs. As a result, cannabis may have adverse interactions with a patient’s existing medications. Marijuana isn’t the only thing that affects cytokine P450 levels. Certain foods, like grapefruit, can also impact the enzyme’s production.
Cannabis and Cancer – the Verdict
So where do we actually stand with medical marijuana and cancer? We can say with some certainty that CBD has some palliative care benefits. Unfortunately, that’s about it. There’s not enough hard data to draw any conclusions about medical marijuana as a cancer treatment. While there is some promising research, more rigorous testing is required.
For decades, that was impossible. Weed’s status as a Schedule I drug meant that researchers refused to experiment with it. But thanks to the growing acceptance of medical marijuana at the state level, the 2000s have seen an explosion in cannabis research. And with other countries around the world leading the charge, there may be a breakthrough within our lifetime.
Interested in exploring the medical benefits of cannabis yourself? Medical Alternative Clinics makes it easy to book appointments with qualified MMJ doctors in Colorado Springs. Now booking telehealth appointments.