A recent study involving 1,886 individuals who have battled cancer revealed that almost one-half of them, at some point, have utilized marijuana, either currently or in the past. Among those who turned to cannabis postdiagnosis, the primary motive was to alleviate symptoms such as pain and sleep disturbances. Notably, approximately 20% of cancer survivors currently resort to marijuana for relief from symptoms while actively undergoing cancer treatment.
The study, published in the “Cancer Survivorship Journal,” underscored the noteworthy prevalence of marijuana use among those who have conquered cancer. A majority of respondents reported significant improvement in symptoms for which they employed cannabis.
Out of all respondents, 17.4% identified as active marijuana users, 30.5% as past users and 52.2% as noncannabis users. Among the 510 participants who turned to marijuana following their cancer diagnosis, 60% used it for sleep issues, 51% for pain management, 44% for stress, 33% for nausea, and 32% for depression or mood disorders. Additionally, one-fifth of survivors used it as part of their cancer treatment.
Most participants expressed that cannabis effectively addressed their symptoms, with 73.6% finding it greatly effective 24.4% deeming it somewhat effective. A minimal percentage, 1.9%, reported little or no efficacy across various symptoms such as sleep deficiency, pain, appetite, nausea and depression.
Regarding cancer treatment, responses were marginally less enthusiastic. The study reported that 47.7% perceived cannabis as significantly effective, 34.5% found it somewhat effective, 13.8% believed it provided very little help and 4% declared it not helpful at all.
The authors also discovered a low awareness of potential health risks associated with marijuana use, with only about 9% of respondents aware of such risks when asked about them during their cancer treatment. Among the 167 survivors who acknowledged cannabis’ potential health risks, awareness of adverse effects remained low: only 5% were aware it could trigger suicidal thoughts, 6% on intense nausea and vomiting, 11% on depression, 14% on anxiety, 31% on breathing problems, and 35% interference or interactions with cancer treatment.
Given the possibility that individuals may employ marijuana without full knowledge of its potential side effects, the authors advocate for incorporating discussions about therapeutic marijuana into a patient’s comprehensive treatment plan.
This study unfolds amid heightened anticipation within the medical community and beyond, awaiting a decision from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on the rescheduling of cannabis under the federal Controlled Substances Act. While not legalizing medical or recreational cannabis federally, rescheduling could pave the way for FDA approval of marijuana-based drugs and provide tax deductions for medical cannabis entities.
As more studies highlight the therapeutic potential of marijuana, companies such as Green Thumb Industries Inc. (CSE: GTII) (OTCQX: GTBIF) could tweak their offerings to better address specific groups of medical marijuana consumers.
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