Marijuana, one of the most consumed plants across the world, and cancer, one of the most deadly diseases in the world, are often associated with each other, not as cause and disease but as cure and disease. You must have come across several “stoners”, who claim that marijuana is the most appropriate cure for cancer.
Since marijuana has long been used in several herbal medicines, the medicinal significance of marijuana cannot be neglected. In this article, we shall be unraveling certain facts and myths about marijuana and its association with cancer to have a clearer perspective on the medicinal use of marijuana to treat cancer.
Is Marijuana medicinal?
Marijuana is primarily the buds of the plant Cannabis Sativa. The derivatives of this plant are known by different names like Hashish, pot, grass, weed, ganja, etc. Before we skip to the medicinal significance of marijuana or weed, we must sincerely note that the federal government does not permit the sale, purchase, and prescription of marijuana. Although, the state laws slightly differ here and permit the use of marijuana for treating certain diseases.
There are two chemicals present in the marijuana plant-primarily, that have had a lot of research going around them lately. The chemicals delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (often referred to as THC), and cannabidiol (CBD) are present in marijuana and are believed to produce effects on the body like euphoria, etc.
The delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), works on the brain to produce a feeling of euphoria which is often referred to as “high”. CBD (cannabidiol) often works to counteract the effects of (THC) and it reduces anxiety, inflammation, paranoia, etc. Due to their effects on the body, THC is used to treat nausea and pain, while CBD is used to treat seizures.
There are countless strains of weed, grown across the world. Each variety is different from the other, depending upon its content of THC and CBD and therefore, different strains are used for different purposes.
Effects of marijuana on the body:
Marijuana can be consumed via two routes. One can either roll it into a “joint” and smoke it or vape it. Another way to consume marijuana is by adding it into your cookies and beverages and consuming it via the alimentary route. When marijuana is smoked, it quickly mixes up with the bloodstream of the body and reaches the brain to produce its effect.
When marijuana is consumed by eating it and administering it into the alimentary canal, it takes a long time, at least 30 minutes to get absorbed. Once it is absorbed, it reaches the liver, where it is converted to a second psychoactive compound. This psychoactive compound acts on the brain and affects one’s moods.
Smoked marijuana acts quickly but it has its effects on the brain for a short period of time. While edible marijuana act late, its effect on the brain and the body is prolonged. Consuming edible marijuana in excess can have effects similar to a drug overdose which can be fatal for the consumer.
Does Marijuana treat cancer?
The treatment of cancer through marijuana is quite a controversial subject. There have been studies, both to support the proposition and to reject it.
Marijuana contains a chemical “cannabinoid” that when studied along with its derivatives, gave surprising results. When extracts of marijuana were added to a cancerous tumor, they seemed to stop the growth of the cancer cells and there was a significant decrease in their number, which shows that marijuana even killed some of the cells. While the results were quite obvious, one can only say that marijuana has an effect on the cancer cells and not that marijuana cures cancer.
When the smoke of marijuana was studied, it was discovered that it not only delivers THC and cannabinoids to one’s body, but its smoke also contains particles that resemble those found in tobacco smoke. Smoking tobacco is one of the primary causes of cancer and therefore there are chances that smoking marijuana during cancer might backfire big time.
Also, marijuana has several negative impacts on the body. It causes disorientation of the brain and a person loses their potential to carry out several tasks with efficiency. However, it is not permanent but for whatever time marijuana affects the body. Also, while a person experiences a “high” after smoking marijuana, they may even have some unpleasant thoughts that might ruin their experience and disturb their peace of mind.
Clinical uses of marijuana:
Several studies have proven that marijuana helps in the treatment of nausea. Now, nausea might not be a disease but is a side effect of cancer chemotherapy. Therefore, one can say that marijuana is used to lower the side effects of cancer chemotherapy.
Smoked-up marijuana affects the brain too quickly and can therefore be used to relieve neuropathic pain, which is caused due to damaged nerves. Smoked marijuana also affects HIV patients positively. It improves their food consumption. Extracts of marijuana find major applications in pain-relieving.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved and legalized a capsule named Dronabinol. It is a gelatin capsule that contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. The capsule is prescribed to a patient who has undergone cancer chemotherapy, to combat the side effects like nausea and vomiting. This capsule is also prescribed to patients with AIDS, to improve their appetite and gain weight.
When most other drugs fail to combat nausea after chemotherapy, doctors prescribe a drug named Nabilone, which is similar to THC in its function but is synthetic. This drug is consumed via the mouth.
Drug researchers in the US are working on a drug named Nabiximols that is a kind of mouth spray that contains THC and cannabidiol (CBD). The drug is being tested to treat the side effects of multiple sclerosis (MS), like muscle spasms and pain.
Marijuana when added to the culture of a cancerous tumor, did reduce the growth of the cells and also killed some of them. But it cannot be said that marijuana cures cancer. On the contrary, marijuana contains some particles in its smoke that resemble tobacco particles and are harmful to the human body.
However, marijuana extracts are used to relieve patients of nausea and vomiting, which are the side effects of cancer chemotherapy. These also improve the appetite of AIDS patients. US drug researchers are testing a drug named Nabiximols, which might be used to treat the side effects of multiple sclerosis.