Cannabis Safe And Effective For Cancer Palliative Care
Palliative care is a form of treatment provided to patients with the goal of improving their quality of life. It is essential for individuals suffering from life-threatening diseases like cancer. Palliative care is a holistic approach that aims to help the person as a whole, rather than simply treating the symptoms of a disease.
Palliative care also seeks to treat or prevent symptoms and side effects of disease as well as its treatment, such as the side effects of chemotherapy treatment. Because of this, it’s also referred to as supportive care, comfort care, or symptom management. Patients can opt to receive palliative care at home, in the hospital, an outpatient clinic, or even in a long-term care facility.
This approach is especially beneficial for cancer patients, who may receive it at any time from diagnosis to supporting end of life. While receiving palliative care, cancer patients can also choose to continue receiving cancer treatment. The first person you should speak to if you are interested in receiving palliative care is your oncologist, or anyone in your oncology team. They can refer to you specialists who can help you with your specific emotional or physical needs.
How Cannabis Assists With Palliative Care
More studies are emerging showing how cannabis can be integrated in cancer patients’ palliative care therapies and help improve one’s quality of life.
A research study was presented by Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider at the London CannaTech Conference held last year on October 25 and 26. Schleider is a medical director of Tikun Olam, a world-famous provider of medical cannabis in Israel and a pioneer in cannabis research. He discussed the findings of a study looking at over 1,000 cancer patients who were given cannabis during palliative treatment. The participants of the study reported significant relief from their pain as well as an improvement in their quality of life.
The data was collected over the course of two years while the researchers studied cancer patients who were being given licensed medical cannabis from Tikun Olam. Israeli law permits patients to obtain up to 30 grams of inflorescence or cannabis oil for palliative purposes. Most of the patients were diagnosed with lung or breast cancer.
The researchers conducted telephone interviews to follow up after one month and then 6 months to determine the degree of pain and changes in their quality of life. After the 6 month period, Schleider said that only 5% said they still experienced pain levels of 8, 9, or 19 which, based on the Patient Global Assessment report stands for “worst pain imaginable”. Schleider said that the next steps would be involving double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials to evaluate the palliative effect of cannabis on different diseases. “Cannabis therapy can improve the condition of many patients with a wide range of diseases,” he says. “My advice to the UK is to permit clinical trials and studies of medicinal cannabis.”
In 2013, a poll was conducted surveying 1,446 physicians where 76% of them approved the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. They said that it was their “responsibility as caregivers to alleviate suffering” as the reasoning behind their support.
“Clinically, I have observed that many cancer patients benefit from adding cannabis to their pain regimen,” says Donald I. Abrams, MD, a hematologist and oncologist from the San Francisco General Hospital in California. “Many patients have successfully weaned themselves down or off their opiate dose by adding cannabis to their regimen,” he adds.
Like with many things that associated with medical cannabis, finding good data can be like pulling teeth. But the studies we have so far are promising. Another recent study which was published in Gerontologist says that cannabis “may be an effective substitute for prescription opioids and other misused medications,” and that it’s “an alternative for the undertreatment of pain at the end of life.”
Terminally ill patients, especially those with cancer, are not only extremely sick, but they are also given the highest amounts of the world’s most powerful painkillers and addictive opiates to help relieve them of their pain. Yet these medications make them even sicker, causing them to suffer from side effects such as nausea, confusion, and drowsiness. In the worst-case scenario, they get addicted and can die from an overdose.
“Moving forward to the present moment, I prefer that this type of care be termed ‘cannabinoid integrative medicine’ (CIM), which better contextualizes cannabinoid use within the overarching trends in medicine today. Where integrative medicine blends conventional with complementary and alternative therapy such as botanicals, CIM emphasizes the integrated therapeutic use of the cannabinoid-rich botanical Cannabis,” says Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, MD, PhD of the MultiCare Auburn Medical Center.
Cannabis can not only ease the physical pain associated with terminal illness, it can also relieve any spiritual and emotional suffering while offering hope to patients and their families.