Cancer Pain has Met its Match: Medical Marijuana

Each year, around 14
million
people are
diagnosed with cancer globally, a figure that is expected to rise to 22
million within the next two decades. Over
one-third of people with
cancer, and around three-quarters of those with advanced cancer,
experience chronic pain. Most cancer
pain

is caused by tumors pressing on nerves, bones or organs, or it may be
related to the cancer treatments themselves, such as chemotherapy and
radiotherapy. Other factors such as depression, fear, anxiety and a lack
of sleep can also affect pain perception. Treating the pain that crops
up as a result of cancer or its treatments is thus an important part of
all clinical responses to the disease.

Study Findings Show Promise

According to researchers at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom,
marijuana may provide some benefits for people with cancer-related pain.
In a
paper
published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June
2015, researchers analyzed information from eight studies that looked at
the effects cannabinoids had on patients with nerve and cancer pain. It
revealed that patients using cannabinoids were about 40 percent more
likely to report a reduction in their pain. Patients who smoked
marijuana reported the greatest levels of pain relief.

Current Treatments Fall Short

Currently,
opioids
are the principal medications employed in the management of cancer pain.
However, like all medications, opioid use can come at a cost. Short-term
use of opioids can cause side
effects

such as constipation, drowsiness and nausea, while long-term use is
associated with high tolerance, dependence and addiction. Thus, there is
a clear and urgent need for treatments that bring pain relief with fewer
side effects.

Combined Approach Offers Hope

A study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco,
found that patients may experience greater relief of pain through the
combined use of cannabinoids and opioids. In a
paper
published in December 2011 in Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics,
researchers found that patients using cannabinoids and opioids were more
likely than patients using opioids alone to report a reduction in pain.
The researchers also revealed that a combined approach could result in
reduced opioid dosages.

Marijuana Moves Towards Greater Acceptance

Pain is one of the main side effects of cancer and its treatments, and
conventional medications often offer little relief. Medical marijuana
provides an alternative, and may ease pain more effectively than
standard treatment.

Photo Credit.

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