Recently talk of cannabis and cancer treatment have gone hand in hand. Medical marijuana is becoming increasingly popular amongst cancer patients as they see positive results from using the plant to aid symptoms brought on by the disease, as well as medical treatments like chemotherapy.
For cancer patients, there are various potential benefits to cannabis use, specifically when it comes to managing symptoms. Research shows that Cannabis is successful in combatting chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, as well as depression. Although Cannabis proves to be less potent than other available solutions to these symptoms, for some patients, Cannabis is proving more successful in reducing their suffering.
A 2018 survey demonstrated that cannabis use among patients with cancer was widespread. 43% of the 2040 surveys returned to researchers indicated cannabis use, with one in eight respondents identifying at least one cancer-related symptom for which they used Cannabis. The top reasons for cannabis use included cancer-related pain (46%), nausea (34%), and other cancer symptoms (31%).
According to Leafly, a cannabis information resource, Dr. Joseph Rosado, a cannabis physician and author of Hope and Healing: the Case for Cannabis, says that ingested Cannabis will interact with all medications that are processed through the liver, including chemotherapy drugs. Our bodies use CYP enzymes to metabolize over half of the drugs sold in the market today, including all chemotherapy drugs. When THC and CBD are consumed orally, they interact with other medications that are processed by CYP enzymes in the liver. This interaction results in the fluctuating of the levels of the other drugs.
Chemotherapy drugs are cytotoxic, which means that they are toxic to all living cells. The goal of chemotherapy is to kill as many cancer cells as possible while minimizing the death of healthy cells. Due to the CYP interaction, patients who use cannabis medicine in conjunction with chemotherapy run the risk of having more toxic chemicals in their blood than expected.
According to Dr. Rosado, Cannabis can safely be used in conjunction with chemotherapy treatment if appropriately administered. CYP enzyme interactions in the liver mostly occur when orally administered through pills, edibles, and tinctures, but the liver can be bypassed if the drug is administered using inhalation (vaping, smoking, inhalers), topical creams and patches, or intra-rectal or intra-vaginal routes (suppositories, ovules).
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