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Opioids: study suggests improving the debilitating effects of cancer treatments with medicinal cannabis

Exploring the use and efficacy of medicinal cannabis as a safe treatment option for people who are undergoing palliative care

Exploring the use and efficacy of medicinal cannabis as a safe treatment option for people who are undergoing palliative care


Picture: SPL

The debilitating effects of cancer and its treatments could be markedly improved with the use of medicinal cannabis, according to the findings of this Israeli study.

Researchers studied almost 3,000 people who were prescribed cannabis for their cancer-related symptoms and concluded it presents a safe and efficacious palliative treatment option.

The study examined people with a heterogeneous group of cancer diagnoses and various co-morbidities – who were treated between 2015 and 2017 – and prescribed one of 16 strains of medical cannabis. This could be administered one of two ways or both – oil and inflorescence (which includes capsules and cigarettes).

Evaluate side effects

The average age of the patient was 59.5 years. Of the cohort, 45% were male and more than a quarter had previous experience of cannabis use. Patients were followed up by telephone interview at one and six months after starting treatment to evaluate their quality of life, symptom experience and side effects associated with the medication.

Cannabis use was associated with minimal side effects and any that were experienced, such as drowsiness or dry mouth, were tolerable, less severe and not as frequent than those associated with the conventional treatments, such as opioids.

The requirements for such drug use also reduced over the study period.

Reference

Schleider L et al (2018) Prospective analysis of safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in large unselected population of patients with cancer. European Journal of Internal Medicine. doi:10.1016/j.ejim.2018.01.023


Dion Smyth is a lecturer-practitioner in cancer and palliative care, Birmingham City University

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