Every year sees a pile of scientific research supporting the use of cannabis as a treatment for cancer. Clinical evidence, however, has yet prove that cannabinoids, terpenes, or cannabis treat cancer. With or without clinical trials, though, cancer patients who medicate with cannabis remain optimistic in Canada and The Netherlands. (1, 2)
Before legalization in Canada, an observational study documented high rates of cannabis consumption in Canadian cancer patients. (1) But despite Canada’s four-year-old research, there remains a lack of clinical trials that prove cannabis is an effective cancer treatment. Following this, a Dutch study confirmed the results in a publication released in the Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology this month. (2)
Cancer and cannabis use in The Netherlands
Patients used cannabis to treat physical symptoms nearly three-fold more than psychological issues brought on by cancer. Not far behind physical symptoms were the anti-cancer effects of cannabis. More than half the consumers self-medicated in hopes of treating cancer and not just the associated symptoms, though.
In terms of psychological ailments, cancer patients in Holland and Canada self-medicate with cannabis to treat depression, anxiety, and stress. Whereas insomnia and general pain were the most common physical symptoms that cancer patients medicated with cannabis. Less frequently, cancer patients treated nerve pain, fatigue, as well as appetite and nausea with cannabis.
In Holland, cancer patients reported using cannabidiol (CBD) more frequently than a mix of CBD and THC. Far less common still was the use of THC dominant products and cultivars in cancer patients in the survey.
Legal cannabis in Canadian cancer patients
Modern Canadian doctors have prescribed cannabis to cancer patients to treat nausea and pain for nearly a decade. Before legalization, 43% of cancer patients previously used cannabis as of June 2018. But only 18% of the nearly 2000 participants used cannabis within the last six months. And in the Canadian survey, 36% of the recent 356 cancer patients who used cannabis were new consumers.
The Netherlands’ observational study served as a follow-up to research conducted in Canada. Dutch researchers noted that cannabis was legal for medical patients in Canada but only decriminalized in The Netherlands. This caused expectations for drastically different rates of cannabis consumption. In contrast, there was little difference between consumers in the two nations. Are researchers in The Netherlands unfamiliar with other detrimental loopholes unjustly guarding Canada’s legal medical market?
Remember, a single participant in the Dutch study was prescribed medical cannabis by a doctor. This come as no surprise since Medical Doctors and Physicians who treat cancer patients typically lack education on the topic. Should cannabis, therefore, be analyzed as a treatment for cancer in clinical trials to help doctors open access?
Let us know if you or someone you know has treated cancer symptoms with cannabis. Do you think that standardized extraction methods should be published to aid clinicians?
Martell K, Fairchild A, LeGerrier B, et al. Rates of cannabis use in patients with cancer. Curr Oncol. 2018;25(3):219-225. doi:10.3747/co.25.3983
Oelen Y, Revenberg S, de Vos-Geelen J, et al. Cannabinoid consumption among cancer patients receiving systemic anti-cancer treatment in the Netherlands [published online ahead of print, 2022 Jul 2]. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2022;10.1007/s00432-022-04085-z. doi:10.1007/s00432-022-04085-z