Using cannabis can reduce pain in cancer patients and reduce the use of other drugs that patients require, a new Canadian study has shown.
Published in BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care the researchers from McGill University Health Centre, Quebec, and the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, found that medicinal cannabis is “a safe and effective complementary treatment for pain relief in patients with cancer”.
The study involved 358 patients with cancer. During the study there were 15 adverse events reported in the patients.
Of the 15, 11 were considered “not serious” while the 2 serious events (pneumonia and cardiovascular event) were considered to be unlikely related to the medicinal cannabis. Other side effects of the patients included dizziness and fatigue.
According to the researchers, one third of all cancer patients experience moderate to severe pain. In terminally ill cancer patients, this jumps to two thirds who experience moderate to severe pain.
Traditionally, cancer patients are treated with painkillers, but one third of patients still experience pain despite the treatment.
Each three months, the patients in the cannabis study were asked how much pain they felt and how many drugs they took.
Those patients who were using cannabis reported much less pain and noticed that it was interfering less with their daily life.
Cannabis products with an equal balance of THC and CBD appeared to be the most effective treatment.
The latest findings have led for the researchers of the study to confirm the results further via randomised placebo-controlled trials.
Cannabis is legal in Canada both recreationally and medicinally. In the UK, cannabis is available on the NHS via prescription, but there appears to be hesitancy from doctors to prescribe the drug.