Does marijuana cure cancer?
Marijuana has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries. Scientists have found biologically active components in marijuana – cannabinoids. Nowadays, marijuana and its cannabinoids cannot be legally possessed, prescribed and sold by federal law. But the consumption of marijuana for treatment of some medical conditions is legal according to state laws in many states.
Talking about people who already have cancer, there are two different opinions. Conclusions researches are still mixed, some of them say that marijuana cures cancer and other studies suggest that marijuana smoke increases the risk of cancer.
It’s necessary to consider that not all marijuana is the same. It is known that there are varieties that don’t possess narcotic action and synthesize only harmless substance. But some verities of marijuana include the cannabinoids (THC), which leads to a drug effect.
In the early 2000s it was discovered that marijuana has an antitumor effect. For example, scientists demonstrated that THC leads to regression of brain cancer in rats and mice. Thus cannabinoids do not directly affect tumor cells, but they trigger apoptotic processes through the cannabinoid receptors.
Researchers decided to change tactics after a few years of periodic confirmation of efficiency of marijuana against cancer. In 2010, American scientists went by “by contradiction” and checked – whether there is the link between marijuana and the occurrence of cervical cancer? They surveyed 3,500 women who used marijuana, but found no link between cervical cancer and drug use.
The scientists have tried marijuana in patients with liver cancer, and they have demonstrated that THC “reduced the viability of tumor cells” by stimulating the cannabinoid receptors. These researches have also proved the beneficial effects of marijuana on cancerous prostate tissue. The researchers have shown the impact of cannabidiol (CBD) on colon cancer cells. It significantly reduced the incidence of colon cancer. Experiments have shown that CBD also protects DNA from oxidative damage, and slows down the process of cell reproduction.
Later studies confirmed that active substance of marijuana inhibits the growth of tumor cells and has no side effects unlike chemotherapy. Some scientists even offered to use marijuana for the creation of new cancer treatments.
Thus, in general, over the past 15 years, scientists has shown that cannabinoids (but not the smoke of marijuana) slow down the division of cancer cells and trigger their natural death, they inhibit the metastasis of malignant tumors and also have analgesic effect.
May marijuana cause cancer?
The connection between smoking tobacco and lung cancer is proved, but does marijuana also cause cancer? The answer is – maybe.
Smoking is harmful for the health of lungs. Whether it is tobacco smoke or marijuana smoke, carcinogens and toxins are released from the combustion of materials. Studies have shown that the smoke of marijuana contains many of the same irritants, toxins and carcinogens as tobacco smoke.
Except for the toxic substances, marijuana is usually smoked in a different manner than tobacco. Marijuana smokers inhale deeper and hold their breath longer than cigarette smokers. It leads to a greater exposure per breath to tar.
Researchers have shown that smoking marijuana causes chronic bronchitis and marijuana smoke injure the large airways cell linings. This explains why smoking marijuana leads to symptoms such as phlegm production, wheeze and acute bronchitis, chronic cough.
Smoking marijuana has also been connected with appearance of air pockets in between both lungs and between the chest wall and the lungs, and also with occurrence of large air bubbles in the lungs of young and middle-aged adults, who are heavy smokers of marijuana mostly. However, it is impossible to make a conclusion whether these cases occur more frequently among marijuana smokers than among population in general.
Serious health consequences can arise if relying on treatment by marijuana alone and while delaying or avoiding conventional medical care for cancer. The American Lung Association continues the research of the health effects of marijuana use, because the risks, benefits and safety of marijuana consumption for medical purposes require further research. Patients, who consider use marijuana for medicinal purposes, should discuss their decision during the consultation with doctor, and consider other means of treatment except for smoking.
What we know is that smoking marijuana may help some people cope with cancer. As noted in the National Cancer Institute, “cannabinoids can be beneficial in the treatment of cancer-related side effects.” Some of the side effects (like pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and poor sleeping) can be improved by use of marijuana.
Reducing the side-effects of smoking
By the way, researches on respiratory effects of marijuana have shown that the harmful effects of tar can be reduced if marijuana is not smoked. Nowadays there are some alternative methods of cannabis consumption including vaporizers, devices with filters, and sublingual, oral, transdermal, and rectal ingestion.
Smoking devices with use of water filters (for example – bongs) have been found to involve equivalent amounts of tar and don’t reduce risks of marijuana smoke inhalation.
Vaporizers have fewer respiratory symptoms reported by users and produce lower levels of tar than cigarettes, because they which heat marijuana below combustion point. These are the reasons why vaporizers have been mentioned to be a safer method of consumption. Nevertheless, vaporizers have also been found to release ammonia which, while inhaling, can cause central nervous system effects and irritation, like bronchial spasms and asthma. It’s necessary to carry out more research on harm reduction techniques of the vaporizers use.
Eating marijuana is maybe the most obvious means to reduce the respiratory effects while the drug using. Oral ingestion has its own challenges, because it usually takes longer for the effects of the drug to appear (30–60 minutes comparing with seconds), it makes oral ingestion to have an increasing the risk of overdose and more difficult to monitor dose.
There are some other alternative forms of marijuana consumption: sublingual, transdermal, and rectal delivery have not been appropriately studied but may also reduce the potential risks connected with the cannabis administration.
This substance is illegal and this fact has limited research of marijuana as treatment for cancer. One small study has shown that marijuana can be useful for patients with recurrent brain tumor. Maybe with legalization, it will be easier to research useful properties of marijuana and the answer on question “does marijuana cure cancer?” will be more clear in the future.