When someone is diagnosed with cancer, the primary goal is for the patient to achieve a healthy remission, however, this is easier said than done. A successful cancer treatment involves the correct plan and treatment options, mental and physical strength to endure the process, and in some cases, life changing surgeries. To help combat the pain associated with certain forms of a cancer treatment, doctors are often left having to prescribe highly addictive prescription opioids. While these drugs certainly aid in relieving the painful symptoms that can occur, they also have the ability to leave the patient at risk of becoming opioid dependent.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), in 2015, 20.5 million Americans were recorded as having a substance use disorder. Two million of those cases directly involve the use of prescription pain relievers. This opioid epidemic seemingly has no end, and researchers are working effortlessly to develop a solution to this growing issue.
One of the most highly debated substances of today’s discourse is medical cannabis. While cannabis has come under scrutiny over the past couple of decades, researchers are beginning to understand its healing properties, and abilities to alleviate pain. As regulations around the globe begin to be lifted on cannabis, more thorough research will be able to be conducted. In time, the conclusive evidence supporting or disavowing cannabis will finally be brought to the forefront.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound that is extracted from a certain type of cannabis plant, most commonly known as the hemp plant. The two most familiar compounds of the many that are derived from cannabis are THC and CBD. However, unlike THC, CBD does not produce the same euphoric effects. CBD is a non-psychoactive that provides the same benefits as it’s THC counterpart, which has made it favorable among doctors wishing to explore alternative methods of pain relief.
CBD works by sending certain signals to the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system contains cannabinoid receptors (CB1 & CB2), and as opposed to THC, CBD utilizes these receptors indirectly. CBD has the ability to increase the amount of the body’s natural cannabinoids by preventing certain enzymes from breaking them down properly.
CBD interacts with the body’s opioid receptors, which has posed to be very fascinating. Opioid receptors produce dopamine, a natural pain reliever that, when produced in excess, may cause an addiction. While further research needs to be conducted on just what effects CBD has on our opioid receptors, there is hope that CBD can negate the cravings that come with opioids, and perhaps suppress the withdrawal symptoms that occur when someone has stopped using these types of drugs.
For those whose cancer has metastasized, and is classified as terminal, the primary focus shifts towards the patient’s palliative care and comfort. Incurable cancers such as late-stage mesothelioma can cause a serious amount of discomfort due to the aggressive nature of the disease. While prescription opioids would be a fairly easy way of dealing with pain symptoms, the last thing any cancer patient wants to deal with is an addiction. After a terminal diagnosis has been given, it’s important a patient lives out their life, pain free with their family and loved ones.
CBD has become a potential option for patients wishing for relief without the fear of becoming dependent. In a 2012 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a trial group was randomized with a select number of patients being given Nabiximols, a now FDA approved CBD extract. The results of this study showed that Nabiximols in a low dosage was a useful add-on for patients whose pain could not solely be treated with opioids.
With Nabiximols being an FDA approved drug, further trials and research are able to be conducted on Nabiximols, and hopefully more data will prove the efficacy of this drug in treating pain for cancer patients. This drug has also shown to be very effective in treating patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a disease that causes patients to experience seizures multiple times a day. The wide variety of diseases that CBD may have an impact on is exciting and researchers are just beginning to scratch the surface of its benefits.
While cannabis has been an area of concern as far as what’s legal and what isn’t, CBD has been cleared for usage in all 50 states. However, the CBD must be derivative of industrial grown hemp and must have a THC content of less than .03 percent. This narrows the amount of suppliers who are creating CBD products, and benefits those who can grow hemp with serious quality control.
As a consumer, this is important as you do not want to purchase a product that is not industrially grown or sold by an unaccredited supplier. Hemp has the ability to absorb toxins from the soil, and for those who are growing hemp without strict conditions in place, the CBD you consume may contain harmful substances. If you are going to explore using CBD, you should only be purchasing it from a trusted supplier, or you can obtain a CBD prescription from your doctor, which would be considered medical grade.
Although cannabis is beginning to become more widely accepted across the globe, the ability to study its effects in the health community is still somewhat limited due to certain restrictions that vary based on location. As these restrictions are reduced however, researchers will have greater access to cannabis, and will be able to conduct further analysis on both CBD and THC. Hopefully, in the near future, cannabis will prove to be an effective form of pain relief, and even become a component in aiding in healing certain diseases.
Personally I use both CBD and THC based products. I love CBD salves for everything to do with the skin and for cancer patients I recommend Rick Simpson’s oil, which is heavily laden with THC. Eating organic marijuana buds does not get one high no matter how much THC is in it and is an excellent form of intake for broad based healing.
THC is not without its side-effects, especially when used over the long term, which can be measured in decades. However compared to opioids medical marijuana, when used aggressively for pain relief is as safe as apple pie. And compared to the toxicity of regular chemotherapy it is as safe as safe can be.