Medical Marijuana and Chemotherapy
Many people may use the term “medical marijuana” and “cancer treatment” interchangeably. This reference is due to the research-backed antiemetic attribute of cannabis in the management of cancer and chemotherapy side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite, and pain. But what do we know so far about medical marijuana and chemotherapy? Let’s find out.
Other than a significant lack of cannabis education for clinicians, the legal status of marijuana has restricted the ability of oncologists to prescribe medical weed to their patients.
Subsequently, a significant proportion of cancer patients will frequently use cannabis without the knowledge of their physicians.
Apart from the ability to improve on some of the distressing symptoms of the medical condition—marijuana can also play a significant role in the management of the side effects arising after cancer patients use conventional treatment regimens.
Even though there is a myriad of prescription drugs in the pharmaceutical field intended for the purpose of managing cancer symptoms, a substantial number of patients respond well to cannabis as compared to traditional medications.
On the flip side, you’ll also find a considerable proportion of patients responding well to prescription drugs—with some patients getting more relief from the prescription drugs than they would from marijuana. Such variability in response is a feature shared by most medications that are given to relieve symptoms.
Generally, many patients may benefit from nausea relief plus the appetite-stimulating attributes of weed to a substantially higher degree—although pot is also significantly potent against an array of other symptoms.
The “Elixir of Life”
So many people may often ascribe to the “potency” of alcohol, tobacco, or pot—sometimes going to extreme lengths to extoll the virtues of each one—perhaps more than there actually is!
But among the many abusable drugs available today, marijuana perhaps has the least marginally harmful side effect profile. And while the other substances may be lethal, consuming marijuana instead of smoking it can be the best option to protect you from the potential carcinogenic effect of some of its elements.
Medical Marijuana and Chemotherapy Modern-day Research Findings
Based on a 2018 study conducted on cancer patients, a significant proportion of patients (one in eight) reported using marijuana to treat cancer symptoms. According to the same research, a small percentage of the sample population considered hemp to interfere with other medications.
But according to experts, weed interacts with almost every prescribed medication getting processed through the liver—and this includes all chemotherapy drugs.
How Does Marijuana Interact With Chemotherapy Drugs?
When you orally consume THC or CBD during the management and treatment process of cancer, they interact with conventional chemotherapy medications that are broken down by cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes present in the liver. Usually, the interactions instigate variations in the level of chemotherapy drugs (rise or fall).
Typically, your body will use CYP enzymes to process 60% of the medication—and this includes chemotherapy drugs as well as anti-epileptic meds, heart medications, alongside antifungal medications (drugs that have “azole” as their suffix).
How Can You Use Medical Marijuana and Chemotherapy in the Treatment of Cancer?
Naturally, chemotherapy drugs are cytotoxic—meaning they’re usually toxic to all living cells. Chemotherapy treatment has the intent of killing as many cancer cells as reasonably possible while reducing the destruction of normal healthy cells.
Owing to the CYP interaction, subjects who use hemp alongside chemotherapy can run the risk of having varying levels of toxic chemicals in their bloodstreams than typically expected—raising concerns regarding the combined use of cannabis alongside chemotherapy.
Medical Marijuana and Chemotherapy—Can Patients Use the Combination at All?
Apparently, it’s safe to use medical marijuana and chemotherapy drugs alongside each other. But first, you’ll have to alter the way you administer the marijuana to avoid the potential interaction concerns regarding combining medicinal hemp and chemotherapy.
Here’s what you need to understand:
CYP enzyme interactions commonly occur in the liver after oral (pills, edibles, and tinctures) or sublingual administration. Yet, you can effectively bypass the liver by changing the mode of administration. For instance, you can use inhalation (vaping, smoking, or inhalers). Alternatively, you can opt for topical patches or creams, besides intra-rectal or intra-vaginal routes such as suppositories and ovules.
Of these methods, inhalation is the most potent—and your physician is more likely to recommend it. And here’s why: when you inhale medical marijuana, a considerable percentage of the medicine is absorbed within a relatively short time via gas interchanges in the lungs.
Because CBD fuses directly to red blood cells (RBD’s), it quickly gets into the bloodstream. For that reason, subjects get more benefits with inhalation. Even so, inhalation is safer when a patient uses the acid (non-activated) composition of cannabinoids such as CBDA—for a simple reason, these forms don’t tend to metabolize in a similar manner to non-acidic cannabinoids.
But to ensure the cannabinoids aren’t activated, experts recommend that the subject vaporizes cannabis flowers at temperatures of 131°F (55°C) or below.
Simply put: vaporizing is mare favorable as compared to smoking cannabis—due to the latter’s potential of resulting in adverse side effects, making it relatively unsuitable for medicinal use.
What Are the Alternative Options Available to Patients Who Can’t Inhale marijuana?
As a rule of thumb, cancer patients shouldn’t use oral or sublingual hemp in the course of chemotherapy treatments. More importantly, a patient shouldn’t consume weed edibles within 1.5 – 2 hours of treatments.
Besides, a subject should never use cannabis edibles while under the treatment regime of liver cancer. This condition drastically curtails the ability to break down marijuana, aside from the toxicity concerns resulting after chemotherapy.
More Research Could Provide Answers to the Significant Promise of Cannabis
As oncologists fervently continue to explore anti-cancer treatment options, the debate surrounding the potential of marijuana will carry on stimulating numerous scientific studies.
More so, researchers need to do more in the area of cannabinoid receptors, and endocannabinoids which holds substantial potential.
Further substantive research has demonstrated the ability of cannabinoids to inhibit or curtail the growth of several cancers—namely, breast cancer, brain cancer, pheochromocytoma, melanoma leukemia, besides other forms—from rapidly metastasizing or growing.
Also, cannabinoids have shown significant potential to promote apoptosis, referencing the programmed annihilation of tumor cells and equally, stopping angiogenesis—blood vessel network development around the tumor.
Regardless of the method you choose to consume medical marijuana, it’s essential to fully disclose any other self-medication you might be using to your oncologist. This information allows your physician to manage and monitor your specific cancer better—being mindful of the form of cannabis intake.
For instance, in some cases, THC might impact estrogen levels. Bearing that in mind, most oncologists will, therefore, be cautious about the estrogen variations of subjects’ who have hormone-synthesizing cancers. This outcome may be the case for patients with ovarian cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, or testicular cancer who also use cannabis.
In a nutshell, understanding the science behind medical marijuana and chemotherapy and their interactions at the cellular level will help oncologists appreciate the promise of medicinal weed and how cannabis-based treatment regimens can augment conventional cancer treatment methods.
With additional guidelines and cannabis research support with the approval of DEA, more studies will influence how we interact with this potentially beneficial natural element that can grant us better personal health rewards.
MMJ Doctors Has Got You Covered
MMJ Doctors can help you get the relief you have been waiting for. Get a recommendation for medical marijuana if you are a cancer patient. With our team of marijuana doctors, we make sure every patient is able to get the treatment option that works best for them. If you want to schedule an appointment, call us at 888-578-6704 or visit our appointment web page online today.