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Cannabis or Chemotherapy Isn’t Actually The Question

Emily Robertson
Balding from Chemo Treatment

As evidence that cannabis kills cancer mounts, would you choose to refuse chemotherapy in favor of cannabis medicine?

Recent years have seen a spike in skepticism surrounding traditional treatments for medical conditions in a way that hasn’t been present since the Industrial Age. In particular, some cannabis advocates and patients have been questioning the efficacy of chemotherapy at all.  They cite the dramatic (negative) impact that it has on a cancer patient’s body and mental well being; and point to its questionable success rate.

Sick kids IV in hand, chemotherapy, cannabis for cancer,

Image Credit: Sukanya Sitthikongsak

Is cannabis a viable alternative?

While cannabis advocates argue that cannabis cures cancer, there is currently no scientific evidence to back this statement up. By definition, cured means that you have no relapse for 5 years. We do know that THC can kill cancer cells and we do have anecdotal reports of people being “cured” of their cancer…but no research to back that up.

woman with cancer being held by male partner, chemotherapy, cannabis for cancer,

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Cancer survivor, Rick Simpson, offers a method for making high THC oil that glimpses into how cannabis can help patients with cancer but individual cases should not be seen as an indication of a universal cure. Scientific research is formulated to examine these cases within a broader spectrum of care, evidence, and testing. In other words, it’s set up to find out if these cases are the exception or the rule.

RSO oil on the fingertip, chemotherapy, cannabis for cancer

Image Credit: Wollertz

Numerous studies have demonstrated that THC kills cancer cells by encouraging cell suicide in mutant cells. This cannabinoid triggers apoptosis through various mechanisms including CB1 and CB2 signaling and ICAM-1 proteins.

Smoking or vaping cannabis is the choice for breakthrough pain associated with cancer, but some argue that this increases the cancer risk. Studies have proven that smoking cannabis is only a minor risk of producing carcinogenic effects, and still, others have shown that smoking cannabis improves lung function.

Patients who face radiation and chemotherapy look to cannabis to alleviate the debilitating and painful side effects of these treatments. Chemotherapy causes nausea, discomfort, pain, and vomiting. It can also be the cause for lack of appetite, and the stress of it all increases the risk of anxiety and depression, as well as insomnia.

Fortunately, cannabis is known for alleviating all of these symptoms. Many cancer patients have taken up cannabis in one of its forms, and doctors who are ‘with the times’ are offering prescriptions to ease the discomfort of their cancer patients. The best part of using cannabis as the medicine of choice for side effects of cancer treatment is that you are working to repair that damage, both physically and cognitively.

Balding from Chemo Treatment chemotherapy, cannabis for cancer,

Image Credit: Pradit Ph

So the conclusion? At least talk to your doctor about adding cannabis to your treatment. Seek out ways to access RSO, or make your own. Use oil and edibles if you can because these have a greater pharmacological activity within the body for a longer period of time (versus smoking or vaping).

Have you refused chemo for cannabis treatment alone? What were the long-term outcomes for you?

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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