Medical marijuana has been in the news a lot lately, and it is also being studied for its effects on breast cancer.  I had an experience with it when I was undergoing chemotherapy in 2011.

I was feeling quite sick, and my daughter wanted to do something to make me feel better.  She had heard that marijuana was good for cancer patients, and she had a friend who was licensed to grow marijuana legally.  They both thought it might reduce my suffering during chemotherapy if they made me some brownies. I had not had any recreational drugs for more than twenty years, but I thought it was worth a try, so long as they used organic ingredients. The friend infused some marijuana into pasture butter (pasture butter is made from milk from grass-fed cows) and gave it to my daughter, who added the other ingredients to make a batch of brownies. I must say that these brownies were nothing like the ones I had consumed back in the day, full of sticks and seeds and tasting like hay. These were smooth and delicious, so I ate two.

The drug experience was also completely unlike the old days, which used to be all giggles and munchies. This one was very psychedelic, and not really in a good way. Things seemed blurry and strange, but not especially interesting. Maybe it would have been fun if I had not been sick, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. In fact, if I had not had experience with psychedelic drugs in the past, I would likely have been scared. Finally, I fell asleep, and when I woke up in the morning I was just as high as the night before! Since I was taking it easy anyway because of the chemotherapy, I had nothing on my agenda, which was fortunate. It took three days for it to wear off completely.

I had heard that marijuana can help cancer patients, not only with symptom reduction, but it was also said to have anticancer effects. Much later, I checked the website of the National Cancer Institute, and found summarized results of many studies:

  • Antitumor effects: In a 2-year study, mice and rats were given various doses of THC. They showed a reduction in tumors that was related to the dose.  Researchers found that cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects in several ways:  by inducing death of cancer cells (apoptosis) while protecting normal cells; by inhibiting cancer cell growth; by inhibiting their blood supply (angiogenesis), and by inhibiting metastasis.

    Researchers also did an in vitro (test tube) study and found that CBD inhibited the survival of both estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cells by inducing cell death (apoptosis) in relation to the dose.

    Other studies have shown antitumor effects of CBD and THC in colon cancer and lung cancer as well as anti-inflammatory effects, chemopreventive effects, and enhancement of the benefits of chemotherapy

  • Antiemetic Effects: THC and other cannabinoids have been shown to suppress vomiting caused by chemotherapy in animal studies.

  • Appetite Stimulation: Many animal studies have shown that THC and other cannabinoids can stimulate appetite and increase food intake.

  • Analgesia: Cannabinoids have been shown to reduce pain. One study reported that the cannabinoids used had effects comparable to opioids against tumor pain.  They have also been shown to prevent chemotherapy-inducted neuropathy in animals.

  • Anxiety and Sleep: Animal studies have shown the CBD has reduced anxiety and promoted sleep.



© 2018 - Janet Maker Ph.D.

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