Cannabis for Cancer Care

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Cannabis for Cancer Care

How can cannabis effect symptoms of cancer?


       A number of small studies of cannabis found that it can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy. Studies have long shown that people who took cannabis extracts in clinical trials tended to need less pain medicine. 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 some 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 that they help control or cure the disease.

Cannabinoid drugs

There are chemically pure drugs based on marijuana compounds that have been approved in the US for medical use.

  • Dronabinol (Marinol®/Syndros®) is a medicine containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (FDA) to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy as well as weight loss and poor appetite in patients with AIDS.
  • Nabilone (Cesamet®) is a synthetic cannabinoid that acts much like THC. It can be taken by mouth to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy when other drugs have not worked.
  • Nabiximols is a cannabinoid It’s a mouth spray made up of a whole-plant extract with THC and cannabidiol (CBD) in an almost one to one mix.

 


 

Side effects of cannabinoid drugs

       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 as well as 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 some 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.

       Consult with the doctor about what you should expect when taking one of these drugs. It’s a good idea to have someone with you when you first start taking one of these drugs and after any dose changes.

 

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