Israeli researchers recently published a scientific paper proving that cannabis has the potential to provide chronic pain relief to patients undergoing cancer treatment. Such patients are typically prescribed pharmaceutical painkillers to manage their pain during treatment. But while these drugs can be effective at reducing pain, they tend to cause adverse side effects such as addiction.
Researchers have been on the lookout for a drug that can provide the same pain relief without any of the side effects for quite a while. The paper notes that while medical cannabis can also have side effects, those effects can be categorized as “mild to moderate” and are generally well tolerated.
The study authors state that there were relatively few small-scale studies on marijuana’s pain-relief abilities before they ran their study, which involved 404 cancer patients. The patients were prescribed an initial dose of 20 grams of medical cannabis a month that could either be smoked or taken as an oil extract. They were asked to answer questions about their cancer treatment symptoms before treatment began and at certain points during the entire six-month study.
The paper, which was published in the journal “Frontiers in Pain Research,” states that total cancer symptoms were reduced by an 18% average rating while average weekly pain intensity dropped by a 20% median. Furthermore, the patients didn’t need to increase their dosages during the six months for the cannabis to be effective. In total, 40% of the patients stopped using pharmaceutical analgesics after the study concluded.
However, 20% picked up their analgesic use after the study while 25% of the patients reported that their pain increased in intensity after they stopped the cannabis treatment. The researchers posit that the patients who didn’t need to go back to pharmaceutical pain killers after the study had “less severe disease” and thus had fewer comorbidities by the time the study wrapped up.
Their conclusion was that cannabis has the potential to provide “mild to modest long-term improvement” in cancer-associated symptoms, including pain. Most importantly, the paper states, it can lead to a reduction in the use of opioids and other analgesics that aren’t always risk free. However, the study authors note that survival bias may have affected their results and that medical cannabis may have “limited efficacy and clinical relevance.”
Technion Israel Institute of Technology and study coauthor David Meiri says we will need future studies to investigate how effective medical cannabis can be when used by patients with specific types of cancer and specific shared characteristics.
As the therapeutic potential of cannabis is affirmed by more scientific studies, the products made by companies such as American Cannabis Partners are likely to gain broader public trust, and consumption habits could ultimately be shaped by the information about the medicinal benefits of these substances.
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