Medical cannabis has been used in herbal remedies for centuries. There are several biologically active components in the cannabis plant, some of the most studied of which are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Although the recreational use of cannabis is illegal in the United Kingdom, medical cannabis was legalised on the 1st of November, 2018, after two epileptic children benefited from its use.
The use of medical cannabis for cancer-related pain is being studied, and many human trials have shown that THC and CBD may help reduce inflammation and pain. Pain is one of the most common symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments like chemotherapy. Chronic pain can make it difficult for those fighting cancer, as well as for cancer survivors, to go about everyday life.
Although opioids have commonly been used as a pain relief method for cancer treatments, they, unfortunately, do not work for everyone and come with the risk of dependency. This is a major reason many people have started looking at alternatives such as medical cannabis as an option for managing pain. However, it is important to remember that, like any medication, medical cannabis also doesn’t work for everyone, which is why it is imperative to be under the care of an experienced specialist while trying the treatment out.
How medical cannabis affects pain:
Cannabinoids, some of the biologically active compounds in the cannabis plant, work on your body’s endocannabinoid system by binding to different cannabinoid receptors. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is responsible for the “high” people typically get from marijuana. It activates certain cannabinoid receptors in the nerve cells. When the THC activates the receptors in the nerve cells (called the cannabinoid 1 or CB1 receptor), the pain sensation is reduced. Moreover, the purported “high” that comes with THC can also numb our senses, reducing the intensity of the patient’s pain. This is similar to how some other pain medications work.
Cannabidiol or CBD, on the other hand, has been shown to work as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic. But the main benefit of CBD is its effect on anxiety, which is something many people suffering from cancer feel. CBD doesn’t directly interact with the cannabinoid receptors of the body but indirectly works on other receptors to impact the pain signals felt and received by the body, reducing the pain sensation.
Moreover, the pain that comes with cancer and cancer treatments can make it difficult for a patient to sleep well. Good quality sleep has an impact on our body’s perception of pain. Poor-quality sleep can increase the amount of pain felt by a person, and the increase in pain can make it difficult to get an adequate amount of good-quality sleep, creating a vicious cycle. Medical cannabis may be able to help patients to sleep better, increasing their ability to bear pain.
Medical Cannabis and Cancer
Clinical trials testing the efficacy of medical cannabis for cancer treatment have found no evidence that the medication can treat the disease. However, a number of small studies have shown that cannabinoids within medical marijuana not only ease neuropathic pain but may also relieve the symptoms of nausea and loss of appetite that comes with cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
In one trial, high doses of THC had a greater effect on relieving the painful symptoms of cancer than codeine, an opioid. In another, a combination of THC and CBD had a significant role in reducing pain levels when compared to a placebo.
Medical cannabis is an unlicensed medicine in the UK, meaning it is not a first-line treatment. It cannot be prescribed unless a patient has already tried at least two other treatments and therapies to relieve the pain associated with cancer and cancer treatments.
Choosing the right cannabis product for soothing pain associated with cancer
There are several cannabis-based products available to buy over the internet. However, these may not always be safe and may even be illegal to possess or sell. To ensure you’re eligible for a cannabis prescription, you must go through a registered medical cannabis doctor or a specialist like the ones at MyAccess Clinics.
Our specialists will assess your condition, take note of any medication you’re currently taking and prescribe the right dose of medical cannabis if you’re eligible. Then, to check the efficacy of the medication, you may be asked to return for a follow-up consultation in four weeks, after which your specialists may alter the dose. The first step is to book an initial consultation with one of our clinical team members.