Cannabis may be a highly effective treatment for cancer patients

  • HOME
  • /
  • News
  • /
  • Cannabis may be a highly effective treatment for cancer patients

Cannabis may be a highly effective treatment for cancer patients
02-May-23 05:27:33

New research from the University of Colorado Boulder has revealed that cancer patients who use cannabis to alleviate their symptoms not only experience less pain and improved sleep, but also exhibit an unexpected benefit: clearer thinking. 

The findings, published in the journal Exploration in Medicine, represent a significant development in understanding the potential benefits of over-the-counter cannabis for relieving cancer symptoms and chemotherapy side-effects.

“When you’re in a lot of pain, it’s hard to think. We found that when patients’ pain levels came down after using cannabis for a while, their cognition got better,” explained study senior author Professor Angela Bryan.

This small yet groundbreaking study is among the first to investigate the impact of cannabis purchased at dispensaries rather than government-supplied or synthetic cannabis.

In recent years, a growing number of cancer patients have turned to cannabis as a legal option for managing symptoms in most states. Survey data indicates that up to 40 percent of U.S. cancer patients use cannabis; however, only a third of doctors feel comfortable advising patients on its use. 

How the study was done

The complexity of studying cannabis is due in part to federal law, which prohibits university researchers from possessing or distributing cannabis for research unless it’s government-issued or of pharmaceutical grade. 

Consequently, previous studies have predominantly focused on prescription products like nabilone or dronabinol (typically prescribed for nausea) or government cannabis strains that tend to be less potent and lack the variety of over-the-counter offerings.

To overcome these limitations, Bryan and her research team collaborated with oncologists at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, observing 25 cancer patients who used cannabis over a two-week period. 

After assessing the participants’ pain levels, sleep patterns, and cognition in a baseline appointment, they were instructed to purchase an edible product of their choice from a dispensary. 

The choices were surprisingly diverse, spanning 18 brands, with options such as chocolates, gummies, tinctures, pills, and baked goods, and containing various ratios of THC and CBD at a wide range of potencies.

The range of products chosen by the participants highlights the willingness of people to try different options in search of relief, but a lack of data leaves them without guidance on which product works best for their needs. 

“This tells us that people are open to trying whatever they think might be useful, but there’s just not much data out there to guide them on what works best for what,” said Bryan.

The researchers behind the study went to great lengths to collect accurate data, using a “mobile laboratory” (a Dodge Sprinter van, sometimes referred to as the “cannavan”) to conduct physical and cognitive assessments at each patient’s home. This allowed the researchers to test the patients before and after using cannabis in their own homes, minimizing external factors that could affect the results.