Cannabis has been proven to be effective in treating cancer in a variety of ways. It can help kill cancer cells, shrink tumors, and reduce the side effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
More than 30 U.S. states allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. And a growing number are allowing recreational use. However, the federal government classifies marijuana as a controlled substance. This federal classification prohibits the possession of marijuana. It also restricts medical research into the potential benefits of cannabis.
Americans overwhelmingly support the legalization of marijuana. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 91% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Of these, 60% believe it should be allowed for medical and recreational use, and 31% believe it should only be allowed for medical reasons.
The Pros and Cons of Using Cannabis as a Cancer Treatment
- Vomiting and Nausea: Studies have shown that cannabis can almost eliminate vomiting and reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and. Muscle Relaxant: Marijuana can relieve muscle tension, which is sometimes associated with multiple sclerosis and paralysis.
- Appetite: Marijuana can help with loss of appetite associated with illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and some cancers.
- Chronic pain. Marijuana can relieve some types of chronic pain, including neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage.
- It’s safer: Marijuana is safer than some other painkillers. For example, some people may use it instead of opioids for pain relief. Opioids are highly addictive and usually not recommended for long-term use in treating chronic pain.
Cannabis can be used in a variety of ways: you don’t have to smoke cannabis to get the benefits. Products such as cannabidiol oil (CBD), topical anesthetics, tinctures, and other non-smoking products are now available.
You don’t have to get high: As research continues, scientists are finding beneficial properties in individual cannabis compounds. When these chemicals are released, as in the case of CBD, they can offer treatment options without the “high” produced by the compound commonly known as THC.
It’s only natural: people have been using marijuana as a natural treatment for centuries with good results.
But there are downsides:
- Memory. Frequent use of marijuana can seriously affect your short-term memory.
- Cognition: Frequent use can impair your cognitive (thinking) abilities.
- Lung damage. Smoking anything, whether tobacco or marijuana, can damage lung tissue. Also, smoking marijuana can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
- Potential for abuse: Marijuana carries the risk of abuse and addiction.
- Accidents: Marijuana use impairs driving skills and increases the risk of car collisions.
- Illegal: Marijuana is illegal under federal law. The federal drug planning system classifies marijuana as a drug along with heroin. This classification indicates that these substances currently have no recognized medical value.
Medicare restricts access to drugs derived from marijuana.
The Risks Associated With Using Cannabis to Treat Cancer
Before starting treatment, it is important to be aware of the possible side effects of cannabis use.
- Increased risk of cancer recurrence: Cannabis can stimulate cancer growth and promote tumor progression.
- Increased risk of infection: Cannabis use can suppress the immune system, making people more susceptible to infections.
- Psychoactive Effects: Cannabis use can cause changes in mood, perception, and behavior. These effects can be temporary or long-lasting, depending on the individual.
- Cognitive impairment: Cannabis use can impair memory, attention, and learning ability. These effects may be temporary or long-term, depending on the individual.
The Side Effects of Cannabis Use
Cannabis use can cause several different side effects, both short-term and long-term.
Short-term side effects of cannabis use include impaired memory and concentration, red eyes, increased appetite, and slower reactions. Long-term side effects of cannabis use can include lung health risks, mental health issues, and addiction.
Some of the specific risks associated with cannabis use are described in more detail below:
- Cannabis use can impair memory and concentration. This means that users may have difficulty remembering what happened while they were under the influence of cannabis.
- Cannabis use can also affect coordination and balance, which can make it dangerous to drive or operate machinery while intoxicated.
- Smoking cannabis is associated with several lung health risks. These risks include bronchitis, lung infections, and chronic (long-term) cough. Cannabis smoke also contains many of the same harmful chemicals as tobacco smoke, including tar and carbon monoxide.
- Cannabis use has been linked to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Some studies have shown that cannabis use can exacerbate the symptoms of these conditions. Cannabis use has also been linked to psychosis, which is a break from reality characterized by hallucinations and delusions.
People who use cannabis may be at risk of developing an addiction. Cannabis addiction is a real thing that is difficult to overcome. People who are addicted to cannabis may find it difficult to control their use and may continue to use cannabis despite the negative consequences.
What the Future Holds for Cannabis-Based Cancer Treatment
However, peer reviews of current research continue to advocate the need for more research. In addition, many barriers are associated with quality control and dosage of cannabis with what is legally available to researchers.
The studies note that the long-term effects of cannabis are still unknown. Without more research on dosage and side effects, the scientific evidence for the therapeutic effects of cannabis will remain in question.
Researchers need to evaluate marijuana using the same standards as other drugs to see if it is of value in treating any disease. Until the federal government removes marijuana from Schedule I, large-scale clinical trials in the US are unlikely to take place.