Medical marijuana may offer safe pain relief for cancer patients

News Photo: Medical marijuana may offer safe pain relief for cancer patientsBy Steven Reinberg Health Day Reporter

TUESDAY, May 24, 2022 (HealthDay News)

Cancer patients who use medical marijuana experience less pain and a better quality of life, Israeli researchers report.

And their new study found, these patients could rely less on opioid painkillers, with minimal side effects.

“I hope people will pay attention to the results of this study and use cannabis as needed for patients who need it,” said Dr. Alex Bekker, professor and chair of the department of anesthesiology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical. School, Newark.

Many doctors are still hesitant to prescribe marijuana for chronic pain, he said.

“Doctors are struggling to use cannabis, just because of the historical perspective, and it’s still not allowed at the federal level,” said Bekker, who reviewed the study results.

A majority of US states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis.

But because it’s still considered illegal by the federal government, it hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and therefore isn’t covered by government or private health insurance, Bekker explained.

“Articles like this are important in persuading lawmakers that there is something good for a patient and we are not using it for some weird reason, which is the kind of propaganda that has been around for many years. “, did he declare.

Pain, depression, anxiety and insomnia affect all patients undergoing cancer treatment and can lead to a poor prognosis, doctors say.

“Traditionally, cancer pain is primarily treated with opioid analgesics, but most oncologists perceive opioid treatment as dangerous, so alternative therapies are needed,” researcher David Meiri said in a written statement. Meiri is an assistant professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.

For the study, his team followed 324 cancer patients who have used medical marijuana more than six months. Patients experienced a median 20% reduction in pain symptoms, the researchers found. The median means that half had a greater reduction in pain, the other half had less.

Study participants also reported other benefits.

Anxiety levels dropped by a median of 22% and depression severity by 12%. At the same time, quality of life scores increased by a median of 14%. In total, about 60% of participants reported improvement in symptoms related to medical marijuana, the investigators found.

After six months of using medical marijuana, nearly half quit all other painkillers, the researchers found.

“Medical cannabis has been suggested as a possible remedy for loss of appetite; however, most patients in this study still lost weight,” Meiri said. “As a substantial portion has been diagnosed with progressive cancer, weight loss is expected as the disease progresses.”

He also noted that sexual function improved for most men, but deteriorated for most women.

Bekker said a majority of studies show that medical marijuana improves patients’ quality of life. Because the results of this study occurred over six months, it’s hard to believe they only represent a “placebo effect,” he added.

“From what we know, the majority of studies show an improvement in quality of life,” Bekker said, noting that marijuana may not actually prevent pain from chronic conditions, but it does make life easier with it. pain.

“Let’s say you have chronic pain and you watch an interesting movie on TV, for two hours you don’t think about it, but when the movie is over, you start feeling pain again,” he said. declared. “Cannabis has the same effect. The pain may still be there and the pain reduction is not dramatic, but patients tolerate pain better. Quality of life definitely improves with cannabis.”


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For some patients, however, marijuana may not be the best choice for pain relief, he said. This is especially true for those with a history of psychiatric disorders.

The study was published May 20 in the journal Frontiers of pain research.

More information

To learn more about medical marijuana, visit US National Institute on Drug Abuse.

SOURCES: Alex Bekker, MD, PhD, MS, professor and chair, anesthesiology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark; David Meiri, PhD, MSc, Assistant Professor, Technion — Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa; Frontiers of pain researchMay 20, 2022

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