In late 2013 I watched a fascinating TV special called “Weed” presented by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the medical benefits of marijuana and the latest research on how this highly popular street drug has the potential to be a cure or treatment for many medical ailments. Known medicinal uses are for the treatment of lupus, pain control, arthritis, MS, nausea during chemotherapy, dementia, tremors, epilepsy There are cannabis based prescription drugs already used in the treatment of cancer, such as dronabinol, nabilone and recently Sativex and human medical trials are under way in Israel and the United States to test marijuana’s role in preventing cancer cell growth.
Marijuana / Cannabis – a banned substance
Weed (or grass or pot) is a generally banned substance in North America and is well-known for giving people a “high” and increasing their creativity. Currently medical research and legal grow op numbers are expanding although not without controversy. For many people living with cancer this is great news and offers some hope with the prospect of using marijuana, with limited side affects in lieu of harmful prescription drugs.
Before rushing out to find out where to buy marijuana, there is a little more to the story and the bud on the street is not the bud you would want to treat yourself with medically. Of course, there are two sides to this marijuana story :
Medical Marijuana – THC – (Tetrahydrocannabinol)
is what gives a “high”, a psychological change and can be addictive (about 9% of users). It can also impair driving, and its growing and use is illegal in the USA and Canada. The higher the THC content in the cannabis, the higher the euphoric effect.
Medical Marijuana – CBD – (Cannabidiol)
is what is medicinally beneficial in the treatment of epilepsy and other conditions. Marijuana plants are being selectively grown to increase CBD and can be grown with little or no THC in the plant.
CBD has been shown to reduce growth
of aggressive human breast cancer cells in vitro,
and to reduce their invasiveness
(Wikipedia – Cannabidiol CBD)
A common comment when researching information from reports is that only data on animals has been cited as “no human research data” is available although human cancer trials with marijuana are evidently taking place in Israel (Dr. Sanjay Gupta “Weed”). Due to the usually non life threatening side affects of Therapeutic Marijuana and the exciting beneficial potential of this drug, new research into the medical benefits (for humans) of cannabis on cancer and other diseases should be given greater emphasis. Human research needs to be hastened as some cancers, such as lung cancer, when treated with conventional medical treatment (chemotherapy) has a very low success rate and it also has a very high mortality within 5 years.
- Therapeutic marijuana (with low THC) is becoming acceptable for the treatment of epileptic children
- A negative side effect of smoking marijuana is the increased chance of lung cancer and respiratory disease although other methods of ingestion are possible without causing lung cancer
- Marijuana may be smoked or inhaled using a vaporizer, consumed as a food, oil or a tea
There are chemically pure drugs based on marijuana compounds that have been approved in the US for medical use. The active ingredient THC has been available by prescription as dronabinol in pill or suppository form since 1985. A second drug, nabilone, is much like a cannabinoid. It is also a prescription drug, and is sometimes used when other drugs fail to reduce nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy. More recently, a chemically pure mixture of THC and cannabidiol (CBD) called Sativex® was made into a mouth spray. This prescription spray has been approved in Canada and parts of Europe to relieve pain linked to cancer as well as muscle spasms and pain from multiple sclerosis
American Cancer Society
Links and References
- CNN produced the documentary “Weed” researched and narrated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta
- Cannabis and Cancer – National Cancer Institute. This article also mentions appetite stimulation, improved sleep quality & pain management in human studies (1980’s)
- National Cancer Institute: PDQ® Cannabis and Cannabinoids. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified 10/20/2013 Accessed 11/15/2013 Available at: Cannabis and Cannabinoids
- A scholarly view of cannabis and pain control
- Marijuana and nausea during chemotherapy – American Cancer Society
- Sativex fact sheet from Health Canada
- 2005 Israel report on marijuana / animal testing – resulting in inhibiting cancer cell growth “kill cancer cells in vitro“
- THC in marijuana cuts lung cancer tumour growth by 50% (2007)
- Medical Marijuana
- Antitumor effects of Cannabinoids
- Dravet Syndrome
- Medical marijuana regulations are no bargain for consumers article
- Article “Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics and Politics of Medical Marijuana” by J. Michael Bostwick