Medical cannabis has many potential benefits for cancer patients, especially symptom management. Medical cannabis is used beyond conventional cancer therapy for fighting anorexia, nausea and vomiting, pain, loss of appetite and depression caused by chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting occur when one of the many sensory centres in the brain and digestive system is stimulated. Some drugs, including cisplatin, cause recurrent vomiting in almost all patients. Other drugs, such as methotrexate, produce these effects in a small number of chemotherapy patients. Vomiting can begin within minutes of treatment with some chemotherapeutic drugs or up to an hour after chemotherapy with cisplatin. Research studies have demonstrated the ability of several cannabinoids to suppress vomiting, including two types of THC (delta-9 and the less common delta-8-THC). THC seems to reduce chemotherapy-induced vomiting.
Loss of appetite affects most cancer patients, which can impair the quality of life of cancer patients. Depending on the cancer type, 50 to 80% of people develop cachexia, a disproportionate loss of body tissue. Cachexia is most common in the later stages of advanced pancreatic, lung and prostate cancer. Medical cannabis is known for its appetite-stimulating ability. This effect is mainly due to the action of THC, which has been confirmed in several studies. Some patients may benefit from combination therapy consisting of THC and cytokine blockers to stimulate appetite and reduce nausea and pain.
To prevent the spread of cancer
By targeting the various cannabinoid associated receptors, medical cannabis affects many essential cellular processes and signalling pathways that are crucial for tumor development. For example, they can induce cell cycle arrest, promote apoptosis, and inhibit proliferation, migration and angiogenesis in tumor cells. Different plant-derived cannabinoids and cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs have been the subject of intensive research for their potential antitumor activity, especially in cancer cells. In addition to THC, CBD is another plant-derived cannabinoid that has been extensively studied for its potential antitumor effects.
To manage cancer associated pain
Cancer patients often experience chronic pain that may be the result of direct tumor invasion or a side effect of cancer treatment. Because pain negatively affects the physical, functional and emotional aspects of life, effective pain management strategies are essential to restore and maintain the quality of life of cancer patients. Compounds derived from the Cannabis sativa L. plant species have been shown to reduce pain. The most studied examples are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), a group of compounds known as cannabinoids. These compounds are usually given by inhalation, orally as an oil or oil-filled capsule, or via aerosol containing only THC or a THC: CBD combination.
Medical cannabis offers several potential benefits for individuals with various medical conditions. Here are some of the potential benefits associated with its use:
- Pain relief: Cannabis can provide effective pain relief for individuals experiencing chronic pain, neuropathic pain, or pain associated with conditions such as cancer, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
- Reduced nausea and vomiting: Medical cannabis can alleviate nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and certain medications. It can be especially helpful for cancer patients undergoing treatment.
- Muscle relaxation and spasm reduction: Cannabis has muscle relaxant properties, which can help reduce muscle spasms and spasticity associated with conditions like multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and epilepsy.
- Appetite stimulation: Cannabis is known to increase appetite, making it beneficial for individuals with conditions that cause appetite loss or weight loss, such as HIV/AIDS and cancer-related cachexia.
- Improved sleep: Some individuals find that medical cannabis helps them fall asleep faster and improves the quality of their sleep, particularly for those with insomnia or sleep disturbances caused by chronic pain or PTSD.
- Seizure control: Certain forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, have shown positive responses to treatment with CBD-rich cannabis extracts, leading to a reduction in seizure frequency.
- Reduced anxiety and improved mood: Medical cannabis, particularly strains with higher CBD content and lower THC levels, may have anxiolytic and mood-stabilizing effects, providing relief for individuals with anxiety disorders, depression, or PTSD.
- Neuroprotective effects: Some research suggests that cannabinoids may have neuroprotective properties, potentially slowing down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Cannabis contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation associated with conditions such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
- Adjunct therapy for various conditions: Medical cannabis can complement traditional therapies, providing additional relief and improving the overall well-being of individuals with conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain.
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