How Is Medical Marijuana an Effective Treatment for Cancer?
Marijuana has biologically active cannabinoids, many of which have a therapeutic effect on your body. Scientists have identified tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Dronabinol, a pharmaceutical form of THC and a manmade cannabinoid medication, and Nabilone have both been approved by the FDA to treat some conditions.
Several small studies of smoked marijuana found it can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy. More recently, scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer.
There have been early clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans and more studies are planned. While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show they help control or cure the disease.
Cancer Symptoms Treated by Medical Marijuana
As there are many different types of cancer, indicators often vary. Here, we look at some of the most common symptoms. Remember that having these symptoms or signs does not mean you have the disease. Many other illnesses and conditions can cause these issues, too. If you’re at all worried about any of the following, please contact your doctor.
Symptoms of cancer may include:
- Fatigue: Patients explain this as extreme tiredness and exhaustion that doesn’t improve with rest.
- Fever: This usually occurs when the disease is affecting your immune system.
- Unexplained weight loss: A sudden and unexplained significant weight loss of ten pounds or more could be a sign of cancer.
- Pain: Pain that doesn’t go away can be an early symptom of some cancers.
While cannabis may not alleviate all the symptoms provoked by cancer, many patients find that the substance helps enhance their general sense of wellbeing. The THC in marijuana is useful for relieving nausea and cancer pain and reducing inflammation. CBD helps to reduce anxiety and can help treat seizures. Cannabichromene (CBC) can also lower inflammation and relieve pain.
The National Cancer Institute states that marijuana can also:
- Block cell growth.
- Fight viruses.
- Relieve muscle spasms.
Medical pot is also suitable for treating nausea and vomiting related to some chemotherapy. It can be sleep inducing, so your body can try to repair itself while you rest.
How to Get Medical Marijuana for Cancer
Now that you know about some of the positive effects medical cannabis can have, you may be wondering what to do next. First, discover if your state has marijuana laws related to cancer.
Ways to Use Medical Marijuana for Cancer
The way cannabis affects you depends on how it enters your body. There are several options, including:
- Vaporizing or smoking: When you inhale, the drug gets into your bloodstream and brain quickly. Therefore, the effects fade faster than pot that’s been taken by mouth.
- Eating: When you take pot by mouth — for example, in baked goods — it can take hours for the drug to take effect.
No matter how you take medical pot, taking too much of a strain high in THC can sometimes cause you to feel high. These symptoms should wear off quickly. Your preferred method of intake may vary and it’s ideal to discuss your treatment options with a physician before visiting a dispensary to purchase your medical supply.
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Best Strains of Marijuana for Cancer
Marijuana strains that are high in both CBD and THC work in synergy to effectively relieve cancer pain. However, types high in either of these cannabinoids may also work for you. You may need to try out a few strains and dosages until you hit on the right one for your needs.
Marijuana strains that help relieve pain include:
- ACDC: This makes you feel happy, uplifted, relaxed, and focused.
- Blackberry Kush: High in THC, Blackberry Kush is known for its intense pain-relieving effects. It also makes you feel relaxed, sleepy, and euphoric and is best taken at nighttime or on days you have little to do.
- Harlequin: Due to its CBD and THC content, Harlequin kills your pain while keeping you mentally alert. This is a good option for daytime use.
Fatigue-reducing strains include:
- Strawberry Cough: This fragrant strain makes you feel energized and boosted both physically and mentally.
- Chocolope: Taking Chocolope when you’re wiped out enhances your focus and sensory awareness.
- Pineapple Express: This feel-good strain has a tropical flavor of papaya, mango and pineapple and brings you abundant energy when you’re feeling weak.
Strains that help reduce depression include:
- Pennywise: High in CBD, Pennywise gives you a clear head and relaxed mindset so you can think properly again.
- Chernobyl: Lemon and lime scented; Chernobyl is perfect for you if you need to get out of your low mood quickly.
- Super Silver Haze: This strain makes you feel creative and happy and contains strong citrus notes.
Appetite-stimulating strains include:
- Bubba Kush: High in THC, this strain will relax you significantly while giving you a ravenous appetite.
- Granddaddy Purple: Another high-THC strain, the grape- and berry-scented aroma will help you regain your appetite quickly.
- Skywalker OG: Skywalker OG stimulates your appetite while not making you feel lethargic. It’s a good option for daytime use.
The following strains help prevent nausea:
- Northern Lights: This potent strain calms your stomach while relaxing your body.
- Blueberry Diesel: A great option if you need your stomach settled and your mood lifted.
- Super Lemon Haze: If you have things to do, then this is the perfect strain for you. It calms your nausea while providing you with energy.
Side Effects of Marijuana for Cancer
Like many other drugs, the prescription cannabinoids, dronabinol and nabilone, can cause side effects and complications.
Some people have trouble with increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure (especially when standing up), dizziness or lightheadedness, and fainting. These drugs can cause drowsiness and mood changes or a feeling of being “high” that some people find uncomfortable. They can also worsen depression, mania, or other mental illness. Some patients taking nabilone in studies reported hallucinations. The drugs may increase effects of sedatives, sleeping pills, or alcohol, such as sleepiness and poor coordination. Patients have also reported problems with dry mouth and trouble with recent memory.
Older patients may have more problems with side effects and are usually started on lower doses. People who have had emotional illnesses, paranoia, or hallucinations may find their symptoms are worse when taking cannabinoid drugs. Talk to your doctor about what you should expect when taking one of these drugs.
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