Treating the side effects of cancer treatment is among the most widely known uses of marijuana. The herb effectively relieves many related symptoms, including chronic pain, loss of appetite, and nausea, and now, a new study indicates that its use is becoming extremely common among cancer patients too. In the recent past, only a select few opted for cannabis treatment.
Now, it is notably more popular. One of the reasons for this is the science that supports its use. The study, which questioned over 900 patients undergoing cancer treatment in Seattle, found nearly one-quarter admitting to using it within the past year. Additionally, almost all of them showed keen interest in learning more about the use of marijuana.
Published in the journal Cancer on September 25, the study’s authors noted the limits of current research into the effects of cannabis on cancer-related side effects. Indeed, as the study’s lead author Dr. Steven Pergam said in a statement, a researcher at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, it highlights the need for further study of both the benefits and risks of cancer patients using it.
More and more certainly want it: Cancer patients are actively searching for information about using cannabis to help during conventional treatment, but it is not their doctors advising them. For this reason, they turn to what Pergam called “alternate, nonscientific sources” for answers to their questions, and there is plenty of information online, not all of it accurate or good.
Patients participating in the study were from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, a treatment center specifically for cancer. Researchers surveyed them with questions about their use of marijuana, as well as their thoughts and beliefs about using it medicinally and in general. They found 24 percent of them self-declared “active users,” which means they used it to treat cancer-related symptoms in the last year.
At least 21 percent of surveyed patients admitted to using marijuana in the past month for the same reasons. These figures mean use is more than twice as high among cancer patients than in any other demographic of cannabis consumers in the United States, the researchers explained. The study uncovered other information too.
Seventy-four percent of active users reported using cannabis at least once a week. Of them, 56 admitted using it daily, with 31 percent using it several times a day. The team also found edibles and smoking to be the two most popular methods of administration. At least three-quarters confess to using weed to relieve their physical symptoms, including nausea, pain, and lack of appetite.
Two-thirds of surveyed patients reported using cannabis to relieve the psychiatric effects of cancer treatment, such as severe stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. Additionally, the team found those actively using it more likely to cite legalization as their reason for trying it and active users were mostly younger than non-users or past users who had quit.
Despite 74 percent of polled patients indicating a strong desire to receive information about marijuana directly from their medical teams, well under 15 percent actually got any from their doctors and other health care professionals. Instead, the researchers found that the vast majority sought information from other cancer patients, family members, friends, and media sources.
The study’s authors noted its limits, such as their admittance of the fact that those involved in the survey had a strong likelihood of showing an interest in cannabis already. Additionally, since the study only surveyed one treatment center, and in a weed-friendly state too, the researchers said the findings might not be applicable to all people throughout the country.