The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) has consistently contradicted itself by accepting synthetic THC as medicine (Schedule III) while claiming that Cannabis with THC content greater than 0.3% has no medicinal value (Schedule I). The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). after a request by the Biden administration, recently pointed out the contradiction to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the federal agency that enforces the CSA. The DEA is promising a response. As the medicinal acceptance of Cannabis continues to be debated among federal organizations, Medical Cannabis users already have an answer. Cannabis helps cope with cancer. The experience of disease is difficult. Questions of addiction, intoxication, or other socially unacceptable approaches are trivial next to life-or-death questions like, “Will I be alive for the next holiday season?
Despite advancements in pharmacologic and other interventional therapies, a considerable number of cancer patients still suffer from refractory pain. A study, performed in Tel Aviv, Israel surveyed 252 patients with cancer-related refractory pain. The average age of the patients was 62. One hundred and twenty-six of the respondents were using Medical Cannabis and 105 patients were not. That 50% of chronic refractory pain participants report using Cannabis, is a strong indication that Cannabis has medicinal benefits. The study was published in the British Medical Journal Supportive and Palliative Care.
Refractory pain is not the only issue. Chronic pain is often accompanied by poor sleep and appetite. Cancer chemotherapy contributes to additional nausea and vomiting. Studies have indicated that Cannabis works as well or better than sleep aids. Scientists even have molecular explanations for the effect of Cannabis on appetite. Additionally, among the chronic pain Cannabis users in this study, almost 70% reported subjective improvements with Medical Cannabis. As well, almost 40% reported significant improvement in coping with the illness.
Cannabis is not for everyone. Of the non-users, 65% tried Medical Cannabis and stopped due to a lack of effectiveness (39.7%) or side effects (34.6%). Although, side effects after using Cannabis are generally mild. In this study, no participants required dedicated medical care for side effects after using Medical Cannabis. As the most common side effects, 21.8% reported fatigue and 23.5% reported dizziness . Patients with intractable cancer pain are minimally responsive to many conventional treatments including powerful opioids, adjuvants, and radiotherapy. The authors of this study conclude that Medical Cannabis “… should be considered in addition to current therapies for cancer-related pain and could be offered to patients even earlier in the course of their illness and treatment than is acceptable now.”
Jean Talleyrand, M.D.,