A new study out of Washington shows that when cannabis is legal and available, cancer patients are using it to combat the side effects of chemotherapy and other cancer-related symptoms.
The majority use cannabis to combat pain, nausea and stress. A small percentage said they used cannabis for the pleasure of the euphoric feeling it can provide.
The study also found more than 90 percent of the patients wanted information about the potential of marijuana to treat cancer, but less than 15 percent got information on it from their own cancer doctor or nurse.
Researchers affiliated with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the University of Washington conducted the study. They had 926 cancer patients in the study. The average age of each patient was 58, with an age range of 46 to 66.
Most importantly, they live in a state where marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use.
The researchers note that there are “shifting political attitudes on cannabis” even as interest from the public has increased. They also note a lack of research into the potential uses of medical marijuana, as well as uncertainty about legal marijuana’s future under President Donald Trump.
The short term answer is legal marijuana will continue. Trump recently reached a budget compromise with Democrats that continues, at least through December, the federal prohibition against the Justice Department interfering in states where marijuana is legal.
What happens then is anyone’s guess. Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to voice opposition to legalized marijuana and has criticized state programs.
Against that backdrop, the new study offers a glimpse into how marijuana might be used for cancer treatment in a place where it is completely legal for both recreational and medical purposes.
The study found that of the 926 patients, 66 percent had used cannabis at some point in their lives. Currently, 24 percent used marijuana. The type of cancer did not seem to affect the use.
The cancer patients who used marijuana tended to be younger and with a lower level of education, although about half of all the patients had at least a college degree.
More than half of those who use cannabis reported it as a “major” benefit to their treatment, while another 39 percent said it provide a “moderate” benefit.
Interest in marijuana as a potential treatment was extremely high. About 92 percent of those in the study said they wanted more information about the potential of marijuana to help them with their cancer treatment.
However, less than 15 percent received any information from their cancer doctor or nurse. Rather, they heard about the potential of marijuana from news articles, internet sites, friends and family or other cancer patients.
Patients were split evenly between those who smoked cannabis or used marijuana-infused edibles. About 40 percent did both. For those who smoked, a pipe was the first choice, followed by a vaporizer and rolling it with papers.
Among the edibles, the most popular were candy, oils and butter and homemade baked goods.