More Cancer Patients Are Using Medical Cannabis Than Ever to Reduce Symptoms
Nearly a quarter of cancer patients said that medical marijuana helped them deal with pain, lack of appetite, and anxiety brought on by their illness, researchers report.
Published on November 16, 2020

More cancer patients are using medical cannabis (MC) than ever, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Doctors at the Department of Hematology Oncology at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan conducted a survey of their own patients to help them better understand patterns of medical cannabis use among cancer patients. Researchers anonymously surveyed 188 patients who attended the clinic, asking them to self-report whether they used medical pot, and if so, how effective it was at treating the symptoms of their specific condition.

Out of all patients surveyed, 24.5 percent (46 patients) said that they used medical pot. Respondents were asked to rank their symptoms on a scale of 8 (best) to 32 (worst), and cannabis users rated higher on this scale overall. Most of these patients (81 percent) said that pot helped them deal with pain, 77.3 percent said that weed improved their appetite, and another 73 percent said pot helped them deal with anxiety. Overall, 54.5 percent of cannabis users were better able to tolerate chemotherapy or other treatments than non-users.

The study reports few negative effects associated with long-term cannabis use. Seven patients (16.7 percent) said they experienced cloudy thinking after lighting up, and four patients (9.8 percent) said they felt they had less energy after using medical pot.

“MC was utilized by a significant portion of cancer patients in this sample, across age, diagnosis, stage, and treatment,” the authors concluded. “Patients with a higher severity of baseline symptoms were more likely to use MC and report a favorable efficacy profile of MC. Minimal toxicity was reported in this cohort. Prospective studies are needed to define the efficacy and safety of MC.” 

The study may actually underestimate the number of cancer patients that are using medical cannabis. Although the study was just published this fall, the actual survey was conducted back in December 2018. Since then, five more states have legalized full adult-use cannabis, two states legalized medical marijuana, and dozens of states and cities decriminalized minor pot possession.

Traditionally, medical marijuana has been used to treat nausea and lack of appetite brought on by chemotherapy treatments, but researchers are now finding that cannabis has a wider range of uses. Other recent studies have found that cancer patients are primarily using MC to treat pain and anxiety associated with cancer, rather than using it for its anti-nausea effects.

Researchers across the world have also found that CBD and other cannabis compounds can actually kill or reduce the growth of cancer cells. And other studies are reporting that regular cannabis users are less likely to develop cancer than non-users.

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Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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