The following information is presented for educational purposes only.
Medical Marijuana Inc. provides this information to provide an understanding
of the potential applications of cannabidiol. Links to third party websites
do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations by Medical Marijuana
Inc. and none should be inferred.
Chemotherapy can cause several, sometimes debilitating, side effects.
Studies have shown marijuana can make the adverse effects more manageable.
An Overview of the Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a category of cancer treatment that uses strong drugs,
administered orally or intravenously. There are more than 100 chemotherapy
drugs that can be used to prevent cancer from spreading, slow the growth of
cancer, and kill cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body.
While chemotherapy can be effective against cancer, it does cause
sometimes-serious side effects.
The side effects from chemotherapy develop because the chemotherapy drugs
that attack cancerous cells also damage normal, healthy cells. Common side
effects associated with chemotherapy are fever and chills, fatigue, nausea
and vomiting, sore mouth, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite that can
lead to anorexia, pain or difficulty with swallowing, swelling in the hands
or feet, itching, shortness of breath, cough, and muscle or joint pain.
Individuals undergoing chemotherapy won’t necessarily experience all side
effects and the severity of the side effects varies greatly from person to
person. Most side effects will gradually go away after completion of the
Findings: Cannabis’ Impact on the Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Cannabis has shown to effectively reduce the nausea and vomiting that often
occurs during and after chemotherapy treatments. Studies have found that one
of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), is effective
at treating the more difficult to control symptoms of nausea, as well as
preventing anticipatory nausea in chemotherapy patients (Parker, Rock &
Limbeer, 2011) (Machado Rocha, et al., 2008). Another study found that
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another major cannabinoid found in cannabis, is
also effective at reducing conditioned rejection and chemotherapy-induced
nausea (Limebeer & Parker, 1999).
Cannabis has also demonstrated that it can significantly reduce neuropathic
pain; even pain that traditional treatment had been unsuccessful at managing
(Wilsey, et al., 2013). In one study, cancer patients with intractable pain,
and who had previously and unsuccessfully tried to manage their discomfort
with opioids, saw significant reductions in pain levels after being treated
with cannabis containing both THC and CBD after two weeks (Johnson, et al.,
Cannabis can also help prevent weight loss and a loss of appetite in
chemotherapy patients. THC has shown to significantly stimulate appetite in
patients that have cachexia related to cancer (Nelson, Walsh, Deeter &
Sheehan, 1994) (Jatoi, et al., 2002) (Nauck & Klaschik, 2004). In addition,
patients undergoing chemotherapy and treated with THC have a larger appetite
and report that food “tastes better” (Brisbois, et al., 2011).
Research also suggests that cannabis may help reduce the swelling in the
hands and feet that can occur alongside chemotherapy. Both THC and CBD have
shown to have anti-inflammatory properties (Burstein & Zurier, 2009). In one
study, CBD effectively reduced edema in an animals paw (Costa, et al.,
A survey of 131 cancer patients participating in cannabis treatments for six
to eight weeks reported significant improvements in all of the measured
symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, mood disorders, fatigue, weight loss,
anorexia, constipation, sexual function, sleep disorders, itching, and pain
(Bar-Sela, et al., 2013). Patients treated with THC have also been shown to
experience a higher quality of sleep and relaxation (Brisbois, et al.,
2011). The National Cancer Institute, an organization run by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, recognizes cannabis as an effective
treatment for providing relief of a number of symptoms associated with
cancer and chemotherapy treatments, including pain, nausea and vomiting,
anxiety and loss of appetite.
States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Chemotherapy’s Side Effects
Currently, 27 states have approved medical marijuana specifically for the
treatment of cancer and therefore chemotherapy. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New
Hampshire (also allowed for
“chemotherapy induced anorexia”), New
Dakota, Oregon, Rhode
Although the state of Maryland hasn’t
approved medical marijuana to treat cancer, it has approved it for the
treatment of nausea and chronic pain, two symptoms commonly associated with
chemotherapy. In addition, in Washington
D.C., any condition can be approved for medical marijuana as long as a
DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment.
Recent Studies on Cannabis’ Impact on Chemotherapy’s Side Effects
Cannabis causes significant improvement in nausea, vomiting,
mood disorders, fatigue, weight loss, anorexia, constipation,
sexual function, sleep disorders, itching, and pain, in cancer
patients after six to eight weeks of use.
The Medical Necessity for Medicinal Cannabis: Prospective,
Observational Study Evaluating the Treatment in Cancer Patients
on Supportive or Palliative Care. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23956774)
Cancer treatment patients reported improvements in nausea,
vomiting, mood disorders, fatigue, weight loss, anorexia,
constipation, sexual function, sleep disorders, itching, and
pain following 6-8 weeks of cannabis treatments.The
Medical Necessity for Medicinal Cannabis: Prospective,
Observational Study Evaluating the Treatment in Cancer Patients
on Supportive or Palliative Care.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23956774)
Bar-Sela, G., Vorobeichik, M., Drawsheh, S., Omer, A., Goldberg, V., and
Muller, E. (2013). The Medical Necessity for Medicinal Cannabis:
Prospective, Observational Study Evaluating the Treatment in Cancer Patients
on Supportive or Palliative Care. Evidence-Based
Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, 510392. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/510392/
Brisbois, T.D., de Kock, I.H., Watanabe, S.M., Mirhosseini, M., Lamoureux,
D.C., Chasen, M., MacDonald, N., Baracos, V.E., and Wismer, W.V. (2011,
February 22). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol may palliate altered chemosensory
perception in cancer patients: results of a randomized-double-blind,
placebo-controlled pilot trial. Annals
of Oncology, 22, 2086-2093.
Burstein, S.H. and Zurier, R.B. (2009, March). Cannabinoids,
endocannabinoids, and related analogs in inflammation. The
AAPS Journal, 11(1), 109-19.
Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ). (2015, July 15). National
Cancer Institute. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/cannabis-pdq.
Chemo side effects. (2015, June 9). American
Cancer Society. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/treatmenttypes/chemotherapy/understandingchemotherapyaguideforpatientsandfamilies/understanding-chemotherapy-chemo-side-effects.
Chemotherapy Side Effects Worksheet. (n.d). American
Cancer Society. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@nho/documents/document/acsq-009502.pdf.
Costa, B., Colleoni, M., Conti, S., Parolaro, D., Franke, C., Trovato, A.E.,
and Giagnoni, G. (2004, March). Oral anti-inflammatory activity of
cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive constituent of cannabis, in acute
carrageenan-induced inflammation in the rat paw. Naunyn-Schmiedeberg’s
Archives of Pharmacology, 369(3), 294-9.
Jatoi, A., Windschitl, H.E., Loprinzi, C.L., Sloan, J.A., Dakhil, S.R.,
Mailliard, J.A., Pundaleeka, S., Kardinal, C.G., Fitch, T.R., Krook, J.E.,
Novotny, P.J. and Christensen, B. (2002). Dronabinol versus megestrol
acetate versus combination therapy for cancer-associated anorexia: a North
Central Cancer Treatment Group study. Journal
of Clinical Oncology, 20(2),
Johnson, J.R., Burnell-Nugent, M., Lossignol, D., Ganae-Motan, E.D., Potts,
R., and Fallon, M.T. (2010, February). Multicenter, double-blind,
randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the efficacy,
safety, and tolerability of THC: CBD extract and THC extract in patients
with intractable cancer-related pain. Journal
of Pain and Symptom Management, 39(2), 167-79.
Limebeer, C.L., and Parker, L.A. (1999, December 16).
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol interferes with the establishment and the
expression of conditioned rejection reactions produced by cyclophosphamide:
a rat model of nausea. Neuroreport,
Machado Rocha, F.C., Stefano, S.C., De Cassia Haiek, R., Rosa Oliveira, L.M.,
and Da Silveira, D.X. (2008, September). Therapeutic use of Cannabis sativa
on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting among cancer patients:
systematic review and meta-analysis. European
Journal of Cancer Care, 17(5), 431-43.
Nauck, F., Klaschik, E. (2004, June). Cannabinoids in the treatment of the
cachexia-anorexia syndrome in palliative care patients. Schmerz, 18(3),
Nelson, K., Walsh, D., Deeter, P. and Sheehan, F. (1994). A phase II study
of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for appetite stimulation in
cancer-associated anorexia. Journal
of Palliative Care, 10(1),
Parker, L.A., Rock, E.M., and Limbeer, C.L. (2011, August). Regulation of
nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British
Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1411-22.
Wilsey, B., Marcotte, T., Deutsch, R., Gouaux, B., Sakai, S., and Donaghe,
H. (2013, February). Low-dose vaporized cannabis significantly improves
neuropathic pain. The
Journal of Pain, 14(2), 136-48.
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