Medical marijuana may offer safe analgesia for cancer patients Health
Tuesday, May 24, 2022 (HealthDay News) – Cancer patients who use medical marijuana experience less pain and a better quality of life, Israeli researchers say.
And, them new study found that these patients could rely less on opioid painkillers with minimal side effects.
“I hope people pay attention to the results of this study and use cannabis when it’s needed for patients who need it,” said Dr. Alex Becker, professor and chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Rutgers Medical School in New Jersey, Newark.
Many doctors are still reluctant to prescribe marijuana for chronic pain, he said.
“It’s hard for doctors to use cannabis just because of the historical perspective, and it’s still not allowed by the federal government,” said Becker, who reviewed the study.
Most U.S. states and the District of Columbia are legalized medical marijuana.
But because the federal government still considers it illegal, it has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is therefore not covered by public or private health insurance, Becker explained.
“Such articles are important to convince lawmakers that there is something good for the patient, and we do not use it for some strange reason that has existed as propaganda that has existed for many years,” he said.
Pain, depression, anxiety and insomnia affect patients undergoing cancer treatment and can lead to a poor prognosis, doctors say.
“Traditionally, cancer-related pain is mostly treated with opioid analgesics, but most oncologists see opioid treatment as dangerous, so alternative treatments are needed,” said researcher David Mary in a written statement. Mary is an associate professor at the Israeli Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa.
For the study his team followed 324 cancer patients who used medical marijuana more than six months. The researchers found that patients experienced an average 20% reduction in pain symptoms. The median means that half had a greater reduction in pain, and half had less.
Study participants also reported other benefits.
Anxiety levels decreased by an average of 22% and the severity of depression by 12%. At the same time, quality of life indicators grew by an average of 14%. Overall, about 60% of participants reported improvement in medical marijuana-related symptoms, investigators found.
According to researchers, after six months of medical marijuana use, almost half stopped all other painkillers.
“Medical cannabis has been suggested as a possible remedy for loss of appetite; however, most patients in this study still lost weight, ”Mary said. “Because much of it has been diagnosed with progressive cancer, weight loss is expected as the disease progresses.”
He also noted that sexual function improved in most men but deteriorated in most women.
Becker said most studies show that medical marijuana improves patients’ quality of life. Because the results of this study took place over a six-month period, it is hard to believe that they represent only a “placebo effect,” he added.
“From what we know, most studies show an improvement in quality of life,” Becker said, noting that marijuana can’t prevent pain from chronic diseases, but it makes life easier with pain.
“Let’s say you have chronic pain and you watch an interesting movie on TV, you don’t think about it for two hours, but when the movie is over, you start to feel pain again,” he said. “Cannabis is the same effect. Pain may still be present, and the reduction in pain is not drastic, but patients cope better with the pain. Quality of life is undoubtedly improving with cannabis.”
However, for some patients, marijuana may not be the best choice for pain relief, he said. This is especially true for those with a history of psychiatric disorders.
The study was published May 20 in the Journal Limits in the study of pain.
To learn more about medical marijuana, visit the page U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
SOURCES: Alex Becker, MD, MD, MS and Professor of Anesthesiology, Rutgers School of Medicine, New Jersey, Newark; David Mary, Ph.D., Master of Science, Associate Professor, Technion – Israeli Institute of Technology, Haifa; Limits in the study of painMay 20, 2022