January 29, 2021 4 min read

Health care parameters are broadly judged on the quantity and quality of life (QoL) that a person lives. Cancer treatment by modern medical standards focuses more on quality of life rather than factors such as stress, anxiety, pain, fatigue, depression and fear of death, and are mostly overlooked by some healthcare professionals. Did you know that 50-70% of cancer patients suffering from unmanaged pain, feel that they are more fearful of pain than death? While approximately 40%-50% of pain has been described as moderate to severe, the remaining 25%-30% of cancer pain has been described as very severe.

Marijuana And QOL In Cancer Patients

Quality of life (QoL) comprises the physical, the psychosocial, the social and the spiritual dimensions of life lived by a person. Cancer pain, being of the physical component, has enormous impact on the QoL of the patient and is multifaceted and complex to comprehend since managing cancer pain consists of pharmacological as well as non-pharmacological intercessions. Vigorous surgeries, radiotherapy as well as chemotherapy all concentrate more on extending the life of the patient, not comprehending the reality that the QoL they live is also equally important. But what about natural, herbal pain relief? What about marijuana?

How Could Marijuana Help With My Pain?

Marijuana and Cannabis, comes in three types which are: 

And those are just the best known names, so take your pick. Scientists have revealed numerous chemically active components in marijuana called cannabis.The two most studied components are the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, and cannabis also known as CBD.

Currently, the use of medical marijuana is legally used in some states to treat certain medical conditions, including cancer. Although not a cure for cancer — for some — and in some cases, medical marijuana could be the difference between having a tolerable day with less pain vs an intolerable day of pain. Dronabinol and nabilone are pharmaceutical, man-made forms of THC and cannabis approved by the FDA to treat certain conditions. 

The latest drug in the US to treat cancer pain, called Nabiximols, is an oromucosal spray, meaning that it is sprayed into the mouth in the direction of your mucous surfaces.

Marijuana — An Alternative Pain Treatment

Different chemicals in marijuana possess different actions within your body. For instance, THC causes you to feel the mental effects of getting "high", it can also be helpful in relieving pain and nausea, it has antioxidant properties, and it has the ability to reduce inflammation. CBD, on the other hand, can assist in helping to treat seizures, reduce paranoia and anxiety and can counteract the THC "high".

The probable benefits of medical marijuana for people living with cancer include:

Are There Different Types — And How Do You Use It?

There are different varieties as far as strains and types of marijuana plants that have varying amounts of active chemical compounds, meaning that the marijuana "high" will have different effects based on the strain and how you use it.

Again, marijuana will have varying effects depending on how you ingest it. You can either cook it in food (edible marijuana), smoking (joint), or by vaping (inhaled through a glass marijuana bowl, pipe or hookah).

  • Edible marijuana: Edibles can be baked in cookies, brownies etc., they can be infused into candy and drinks such as alcohol, tea, and soda. THC can take hours for your body to feel the effects once it's absorbed into your system, it gets processed by your liver, which then produces a second psychoactive chemical compound that has a different effect on your brain, mood, and consciousness than THC. You can never really know exactly how much THC is in edibles, so eat with caution, or better yet, get them from an approved medical marijuana dispensary.
  • Inhaled marijuana: When smoked or vaporized, THC can go through the bloodstream and into the brain almost immediately. The second psychoactive compound has less effect due to smaller amounts being produced, and so the effects of smoked marijuana tend to fade quicker than edible marijuana.

How Marijuana Affects Cancer Symptoms

There have been a number of studies in relation to marijuana and cancer, and it was found that marijuana can be helpful in dealing with the side effects from chemotherapy such as regurgitation and nausea. Other studies have found that smoked or vaporized marijuana can assist with neuropathic pain treatment and people who used marijuana extracts needed less pain medication.

Scientists reported that THC and CBD may slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells that have been lab grown. Some studies on animals indicate that certain cannabis may slow growth and reduce the spread of certain types of cancer.

Possible Side Effects of Certain Strains Of Marijuana

There are some strains of marijuana that may cause some unwelcome side effects such as disorientation, anxiety, paranoia, and lethargy. The most common side effects from most strains include euphoria, help with insomnia, increase appetite, talkative, giggly, creative, red eyes and dry mouth.

Since marijuana comes in different strains with different levels of potency, each person's experience can be different, so speak with your medical marijuana care provider about the different strains and which would be right for you.

Are There Other Alternative Methods Of Cancer Pain Relief?

There are other alternative methods that have proven effective in relieving cancer pain in patients which include: