U.S. President Donald Trump recently told reporters he was likely to support a congressional effort to end a federal ban on marijuana, which may finally help cut through the restrictions blocking scientists from conducting trials on the benefits of medical marijuana for cancer patients.
What is Being Said About Medical Marijuana?
Dr. Nick Spirtos, an oncologist at the Women’s Cancer Center of Nevada states, “We need to be careful in how we define the benefits of medical marijuana and that’s because there’s been few randomized, controlled, placebo-based trials using medical marijuana.” He further told Fox News, “I think there are some diseases or conditions that are likely to benefit from the use, such as chemo-induced nausea and vomiting, chronic pain and peripheral neuropathy and anorexia, but studies need to be done properly.”
The Medical Marijuana Controversy
While it is still a controversial topic when it comes to doctors recommending it for their cancer patients. New research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, less than half of oncologists participating in the survey felt knowledgeable enough to recommend medical marijuana.
Dr. Andrew Epstein, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York states, “The amount of information we have is still relatively nascent and evolving and therefore its upon us as a community to re-up our skills in knowing about this aspect of supportive oncology.”
Dr. Spirtos wants to fill in the knowledge gap but knows that stereotypes and regulations are huge obstacles which may be quite difficult to overcome.
Medical Marijuana: An Alternative to Opiates
Some physicians like Spirtos are looking at whether medical marijuana could become a viable alternative for prescription opiates. Each day in the United States 116 people die from opiate-related drug overdoses. According to recent data from JAMA, a 14 percent reduction in opiate prescriptions was reported in states that allow easy access to medical marijuana.
THC and CBD are the chemical compounds found in marijuana and for decades, researchers have known THC is responsible for providing the psychological high people get from using. Recently, studies have focused on CBD and how it can be useful for the treatment of pain.
A research report done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine done in 2017, showed there was conclusive evidence that certain oral cannabinoids were effective in preventing and treating people who experienced chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting.
Medical Marijuana: Conclusion
Right now, 29-states including the District of Columbia have laws passed that legalize medical marijuana, but federal regulations have made it difficult to conduct large-scale clinical trials.
Dr. Epstein states, “Cancer research and symptom research takes time and when you’re in a constantly evolving landscape that exists on a non-medical level in terms of political and legal landscapes with something like medical marijuana these are reasons why it will take time.”
More research is needed to determine whether medical marijuana can be a viable option for treating cancer pain. The oncology community may not be ready to accept marijuana as a substitute for opiate painkillers, but it is the hopes of doctor’s like Spirtos, that with positive data that research views will change and medical marijuana will be embraced for all the benefits it can offer. (article sponsored by top palm beach attorney Sim Gershon)