In 2016 there were over 1,685,000 new cases of cancer. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be terrifying to say the least. Treatment received in the weeks and months that follow can feel like a nightmare. Chemotherapy is standard treatment for several types of cancer, with the first few rounds a person undergoes more unpleasant than many patients anticipate.
Chemo might work for some people as a treatment for cancer, but the side effects are known to make people violently sick. The nausea and vomiting a person can experience after chemotherapy is likely the worst they will ever go through in their life. Using cannabis for chemotherapy however, has attracted increased attention over the past few decades as one of the best medicines for reducing the severity of nausea and vomiting.
Countless Studies Show Cannabis is One of the Most Effective Treatments for Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why chemotherapy causes such intense vomiting and nausea. It’s believed the drugs (or the digestive byproducts they contain) stimulate receptors in certain sensory cells. Some types of chemotherapy can cause a person to vomit within minutes after treatment, while others have shown to cause repeated vomiting.
A study published in 1981 found that THC was more effective in controlling nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients than both a placebo and prescription medication. In 1985, two cannabinoid derivatives were already approved by the FDA to fight the side-effects of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Marinol and Cesamet made headlines as marijuana-derived medications that worked where other prescription medications didn’t.
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, recognizing the benefits it contained for cancer patients going through chemotherapy, as well as other people with certain chronic health conditions.
In 1985 however, two cannabinoid derivatives were already approved by the FDA to fight the side-effects of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Marinol and Cesamet made headlines as marijuana-derived medications that worked where other prescription medications didn’t.
Most Doctors, Scientist, and Medical Professionals Agree Cannabis is Effective for Chemotherapy
Since cannabis was first discovered to help with the extreme nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, several patients have claimed it has helped them survive the overpowering effects. Doctors and scientists around the world hold similar thoughts. In fact, a poll conducted in 2104 showed that three-quarters of US doctors believe cannabis holds real therapeutic properties.
Dr. Benjamin Kligler, associate professor of family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, believes there’s been enough research conducted that cannabis won’t harm a person. Yet, it continues to be classified with dangerous drugs such as heroin. Kligler says, “Given what we’ve seen anecdotally in practice I think there’s no reason we shouldn’t see more integration of cannabis in the long run as a strategy. We have this extremely safe, extremely useful medicine that could potentially benefits a huge population.”
The American Nurses association says that “marijuana is seen as efficacious in reducing nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.”
Comedian and TV host Bill Maher posted the following on Facebook: “New evidence shows that marijuana not only helps with cancer side effects, but may fight cancer itself! Oh pot, is there anything you can’t do?”
And Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and TV personality who adamantly supports marijuana as medicine says, “It is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve marijuana. We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”
How Cannabis Works for Chemotherapy
It’s believed that cannabis works to help reduce nausea and vomiting by controlling visceral sensitivity in the gut. Visceral sensation is what contributes towards feelings of nausea. It’s the cannabinoids present in cannabis that regulate visceral sensitivity. When cannabis is used, the endocannabinoid system becomes engaged, fighting off nausea and vomiting by helping to control visceral sensitivity.
There are thought to be over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis. While THC and CBD are the two that have gained the most medical attention, it’s not exactly understood how the other cannabinoids present in cannabis work together to create a medicinal effect.
As cannabis begins to become more widely respected worldwide however, research that helps gain further understanding of how cannabis works to control symptoms of chemotherapy will undoubtedly be discovered.
Everyone undergoing chemotherapy should have the option to use medical cannabis to control the horrific effects associated with it. To those who have experienced the miracle marijuana provides for alleviating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, cannabis was often the only thing that worked.