The benefits of medical marijuana for those receiving chemotherapy treatments for cancer or other diseases are well-documented. Relief of the side effects associated with chemo is one of the first things medical marijuana advocates proclaimed in the ongoing battle to legalize medical marijuana everywhere. Side effects of chemotherapy that medical marijuana may help with include:
If a chemotherapy patient is hesitant about using medical marijuana, its demonstrated relief of pain associated with chemo and cancers might change their mind. Several studies have found that medical marijuana, especially when inhaled, causes significant pain relief for patients who could not find relief with strong prescription pain medications. The relief of neuropathy-related pain, which can occur in some cancers, has also been shown in patients who smoke or vape medical marijuana.
Loss of appetite & weight loss
The thought of chemotherapy is accompanied by the image of a frail patient wasting away to skin and bones because they just cannot eat. This loss of appetite and resultant weight loss makes handling chemotherapy and recovering from cancer even more difficult for patients. Studies have shown that medical marijuana increases food intake in chemotherapy and HIV patients. The FDA has even approved Dronabinol, a THC-based prescription medication, for appetite loss in HIV patients. Seeing these positive outcomes has inspired some oncologists to prescribe it for their patients as well.
Nausea & vomiting
Dronabinol may not have an official FDA authorization for appetite loss, but it is FDA-approved for nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. Smoked medical marijuana also shows promise for nausea and vomiting relief in studies and actual patients. Medical marijuana advocates hope that cannabis’ successful results for nausea and vomiting relief so far will inspire more research involving other diseases.
The research that has been done on marijuana for chemotherapy-related side effects has been overwhelmingly positive. However, all researchers and physicians will agree that much more research is needed on the effects of medical marijuana, not just on cancer, but on other diseases as well. The biggest obstacle to medical marijuana research is the federal government’s continued classification of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, claiming that it has no beneficial use. This is an outdated opinion. Until the DEA and federal authorities change this opinion and open up more federal funding for medical marijuana research, progress will be slower than it should be. We remain hopeful that the many benefits of legalizing medical marijuana, for cancer chemotherapy patients and patients with other illnesses, will soon be accepted everywhere.