Study: Medical Cannabis Significantly Improves Pain Measures for Those With Cancer

Analysis also shows a reduction in the need for opiate painkillers, and there was a decrease in other cancer-related symptoms, according to results published in Frontiers in Pain Research.

For most individuals who are treated for cancer, the use of medical cannabis significantly improved pain measures and decreased other cancer-related symptoms, according to an assessment, published in Frontiers in Pain Research, of the benefits of medical cannabis in oncology treatment.

The findings also showed that the consumption of painkillers was reduced, and the adverse effects were minimal.

Investigators suggested that these results show that medicinal cannabis can be carefully considered as an alternative to pain relief medications that are normally prescribed to individuals with cancer.

“Traditionally, cancer-related pain is mainly treated by opioid analgesics, but most oncologists perceive opioid treatment as hazardous, so alternative therapies are required,” David Meiri, assistant professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, said in a statement. “Our study is the first to assess the possible benefits of medical cannabis for cancer-related pain in [patients with cancer]; gathering information from the start of treatment, and with repeated follow-ups for an extended period of time, to get a thorough analysis of its effectiveness.”.

Investigators aimed to thoroughly evaluate the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis for individuals with cancer.

Anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain are some of the most common causes of disabilities for these individuals and could even lead to worsened prognosis, according to the statement.

Many individuals with cancer have asked whether medical cannabis treatment can benefit them, according to Gil Bar-Sela, associate professor at the Ha'Emek Medical Center Afula.

“Our initial review of existing research revealed that actually not much was known regarding its effectiveness, particularly for the treatment of cancer-related pain, and of what was known, most findings were inconclusive,” Bar-Sela said in the statement.

The investigators recruited certified oncologists who were able to issue medical cannabis license to patients, and they referred interested individuals to the study and reported on their disease characteristics.

Individuals completed anonymous questionnaires before starting treatment and again at several times during the following 6 months. Investigators gathered data on several factors, including pain measurements, adverse effects, analgesics consumption, cancer symptom burden, and sexual problems.

The analysis showed that many of the outcomes improved but most importantly, the use of opioid and other pain analgesics reduced.

Investigators reported that almost half of individuals in the study stopped all analgesic medications following 6 months of medicinal cannabis treatment.

“Medical cannabis has been suggested as a remedy for appetite loss; however, most patients in this study still lost weight. As a substantial portion were diagnosed with progressive cancer, a weight decline is expected with disease progression,” Meiri said.

Sexual function improved for most men but worsened for most women, he said.

Furthermore, investigators would like to conduct future studies to look at the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in different groups of individuals with cancer.

Investigators reported that a limitation of the study was the wide-ranging variety of individuals, so future studies should focus on specific subgroups of individuals with cancer.

Reference

Medicinal cannabis shown to reduce pain and need for opiate painkillers among cancer patients. EurekAlert. News release. May 20, 2022. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/953153