Cannabis Does a Better Job for Cancer Pain Than Opioids?

Cannabis Does a Better Job for Cancer Pain Than Opioids?

June 11, 2022 0 By Lissette Graham

cannabis for cancer pain

Study Finds That Cannabis Is Safe For Treating Cancer Pain – Cancer Patients No Longer Need Opioids

As if being diagnosed with the Big C wasn’t bad enough, cancer patients often have to deal with a multitude of other debilitating conditions, with the worst being cancer-related pain.

While a cancer diagnosis doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be in pain, some 55% of cancer patients and 40% of survivors still suffer from chronic pain. Almost half of patients have to use opioids to manage the severe pain caused by the cancer itself which in most cases prevents patients as well as survivors from living a normal life. There are many factors that contribute to how much pain one feels; some days may be filled with pain while others are more tolerable, but no matter what, pain shouldn’t be accepted as part of cancer. There are treatments that are safe and effective available.

Unfortunately, opioid medications have become the standard treatment for severe pain, cancer or not. These ultra-strong chemical drugs may be effective at numbing pain, but at what cost? The opioid epidemic in America has taken millions of lives because it’s far too easy to overdose on it. Yet medical professionals continue to prescribe opioids to cancer patients and other terminally ill because it’s what helps them manage pain.

Opioids are extremely addictive, and even the slightest overdose can cause death.

So what are cancer patients struggling with pain left to do?

Cannabis is a Safe Alternative to Opioids

Medical marijuana has been making waves for its powerful ability to treat pain safely and naturally. This is critical for cancer patients.

A brand-new assessment focusing on the therapeutic benefits of marijuana for pain caused by cancer confirms this. The study, which was published in the medical journal, Frontiers in Pain Research, was conducted by researchers in Israel. “Traditionally, cancer-related pain is mainly treated by opioid analgesics, but most oncologists perceive opioid treatment as hazardous, so alternative therapies are required,” says David Meiri, the study’s author, and an assistant professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

“Our study is the first to assess the possible benefits of medical cannabis for cancer-related pain in oncology patients; gathering information from the start of treatment and with repeated follow-ups for an extended period of time, to get a thorough analysis of its effectiveness,” he said.

For the assessment, they spoke with cancer patients who were seeking other choices available to treat their pain as well as other cancer symptom relief. They then worked with oncologists who issued a license for medical cannabis for their cancer patients, and interested patients who wanted to join the study were asked for their feedback.

“We encountered numerous cancer patients who asked us whether medical cannabis treatment can benefit their health,” explains Gil Bar-Sela, the study’s co-author, who is also an associate professor at the Ha’Emek Medical Center Afula.

The authors particularly wanted to get more information on cannabis for cancer-related pain. “Our review of existing research revealed that actually not much was known regarding its effectiveness, particularly for the treatment of cancer-related pain, and of what was known, most findings were inconclusive,” he adds.

“Patients completed anonymous questionnaires before starting treatment, and again at several time points during the following six months. We gathered data on a number of factors, including pain measures, analgesics consumption, cancer symptom burden, sexual problems, and side effects,” Bar-Sela adds.

After reviewing the data, the researchers found that a great deal of outcome measures revealed improvements. Cancer symptoms as well as pain scores were reduced though it was more significant that the patients were able to stop their intake of opioids or other painkillers. Additionally, they reported that almost half the participants were successfully able to wean off all painkillers just 6 months after treatment with medical marijuana.

“Medical cannabis has been suggested as a possible remedy for appetite loss, however, most patients in this study still lost weight. As a substantial portion were diagnosed with progressive cancer, a weight decline is expected with disease progression,” Meiri said.

In a 2021 clinical trial conducted by researchers at Minnesota’s Cancer Research Center together with the Minnesota Department of Health involved analyzing patients with stage IV cancer and their consumption of opioids and license cannabis products.

Thirty participants in the study were tasked to consume plant-derived extracts during the trial, starting at 2.5-5mg of THC/CBD, increasing to 30-40mg of THC and CBD each day for the course of the study which lasted two to four weeks. “Medical cannabis use led to improvements in achieving personalized pain goals and lower overall opioid requirements. No serious adverse events with cannabis were reported, and most patients who used cannabis reported that benefits outweighed negative effects.”

“Our results support prior studies suggesting cannabis may improve pain and minimize opioid utilization in both cancer and non-cancer settings… Incorporating cannabis into routine cancer care may improve pain control and minimize opioid requirements,” the authors concluded.

Meanwhile, a 2018 assessment from the European Journal of Internal Medicine, conducted by Tikun Olam researchers, looked at how effective cannabis was for cancer patients. They found that cannabis was efficient in decreasing cancer patients’ intake of opioids within 6 months from the time they started consuming it.

Lihi Bar-lev Schleider, the study’s lead researcher, disclosed to the Rolling Stone that, “Cannabis is a very good alternative to reduce opioid consumption, to increase quality of life, and to reduce pain, nausea and vomiting.”

Conclusion

There is solid data out there about the efficacy of cannabis for treating cancer symptoms, including pain – which in itself is already very difficult to treat. If you or a loved one is taking opioid medications for cancer, speak to your oncologist about weaning off the drugs and switching to cannabis instead for a safer experience and improved quality of life.