Cannabis And Cancer Pain: Israeli Study Shows Medical Marijuana Effective, Nearly 50% Of Patients Stop Traditional Pain Meds

Medical marijuana can help those suffering from cancer-associated pain, as per a new Technion study published on Friday in Frontiers in Pain Research. Almost half of the patients enrolled in the research discontinued their other pain medication after six months of medical cannabis treatment, reported The Jerusalem Post

“Traditionally, cancer-related pain is mainly treated by opioid analgesics, but most oncologists perceive opioid treatment as hazardous, so alternative therapies are required,” said author David Meiri, an assistant professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

According to the peer-reviewed research, medical cannabis helps lower the pain in oncology patients while also alleviating other symptoms as well. Patients fighting cancer are known to also suffer from depression, anxiety and insomnia, which can also negatively impact the treatment and prognosis. 

While opioids are effective in reducing pain, they have numerous negative side effects. For example, the synthetic opioid fentanyl is highly addictive and can cause death by overdose. The U.S. is in the midst of an opioid crisis with at least 100,000 overdose deaths over the course of 12 months. To address this, federal health officials signaled in October that they are willing to try new approaches to stem the tragedy. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra announced that the Biden administration’s strategy to deal with the epidemic could include allowing supervised consumption sites. 

New Research Offers New Hope 

It seems that this new Israeli research also provides hope that medical marijuana can be utilized as an alternative to opioids. 

The study included certified oncologists who prescribed medical marijuana to their patients and reported on their progress.  

“Patients completed anonymous questionnaires before starting treatment, and again at several time points during the following six months," said study co-author Gil Bar-Sela, associate professor at the Ha'Emek Medical Center Afula. "We gathered data on a number of factors, including pain measures, analgesics consumption, cancer symptom burden, sexual problems and side effects.”

After analyzing all gathered data, the results revealed that the patients notably improved, and more importantly, their opioid use was considerably reduced. 

“Although our study was very comprehensive and presented additional perspectives on medical cannabis, the sex, age, and ethnicity, as well as cancer types and the stage of cancer meant the variety of patients in our study was wide-ranging," Meiri said. "Therefore, future studies should investigate the level of effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in specific subgroups of cancer patients with more shared characteristics.”

Previous Studies On Marijuana And Cancer 

Colon Cancer – In March, An Israeli biotech company that develops medical products based on cannabis and fungal extracts, Cannabotech reported cell model study results showing that its "Integrative-Colon" products killed over 90% of colon cancer cells. The Integrative-Colon products are based on a combination of several cannabinoids from the cannabis plant and various mushroom extracts.

Pancreatic Cancer: Experiments conducted on a cell model, showed that a botanical drug based on an extract of the Cyathus striatus fungus and a cannabinoid extract from the cannabis plant eliminated 100% of pancreatic cancer cells relatively selectively and without damaging normal cells. The results were revealed in April. 

Breast Cancer - A study published in December and conducted by Hadassah Medical Center physicians, revealed a sixfold improvement in killing breast cancer cells when using specific Cannabotech’s medical cannabis products in combination with standard oncology treatments and drug protocols - chemotherapy, biological and hormonal, over the existing treatment.

Photo: Courtesy of National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Posted In: CannabisNewsMarketsMediacannabis and cancerDavid MeiriGil Bar-SelaMedical marijuana and cancer painThe Jerusalem Post

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