A study, published in the Journal of Oncology Practice, has found that cancer patients enrolled in the Minnesota medical cannabis program showed an improvement in symptoms, like pain and nausea, after consuming medical marijuana for four months.
The authors of the study, conducted in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health, monitored 1,120 cancer patients who received cannabis through the state medical cannabis program.
743 of these patients returned for their next supply of medical marijuana and reported noteworthy improvements under all eight symptom categories that the researchers tracked. For instance, the Median pain scores on a 10-point scale declined from 8 to 6.7. In addition, the number of patients reporting maximum pain scores of 10 declined from nearly 25% to less than 10% in the same period.
Struggles with sleep and depression, however, didn’t go away. Dr. Dylan Zylla, a study author from the Oncology Research Center at HealthPartners Nicollet, feels that the results are encouraging, especially when it comes to replacing addictive opioid painkillers. Addiction, however, is not the only concern that comes ‘pre-loaded’ with long-term use of opioids. There’s enough evidence to suggest that opioids might fuel growth of some cancers. So, cannabis may be one of the safest methods to ease the symptoms of cancer.
The reason we used ‘may’ in the above sentence is that more research is required to confirm that cannabis isn’t disrupting the effectiveness of chemotherapy and hurting survival rates.
The study though has limitations. Firstly, it had no way of isolating cannabis from other treatments that might have relieved symptoms. Secondly, the study had the potential for response bias as it was largely based on the progress in patients who returned for refills.
Nearly 1/3rd of the patients did not return for refills, which implies that they either died from it or lost their lives to cancer, or in some other mishap.
Notably, the study didn’t mention the types of cannabis that worked best.