Can Cannabis Help With Cancer Pain? Here’s What We Know

In recent years, there’s been a growing buzz around the potential of cannabis, specifically Cannabis sativa L., to help manage chronic pain linked to cancer. This has led to several countries launching pilot trials to explore the therapeutic benefits of these products and to ensure they’re distributed in a controlled way. However, many doctors are still on the fence about prescribing medicinal cannabis. Why? Well, there’s a lack of solid research evidence about how effective these products are, how safe they are, and how they should be dosed.

So, how does medicinal cannabis work? It’s all about its effects on something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in our bodies. This complex system plays a key role in managing pain. The research we have so far on medicinal cannabis is mostly observational, with just one pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) – the gold standard in research – conducted to date. There are more RCTs on a cannabis-based product called Sativex┬«, made by GW Pharma Ltd., based in Cambridge, UK. These studies suggest that medicinal cannabis could help relieve pain for most patients and that it has an acceptable safety profile. However, we need more high-quality RCTs in this area, and the limitations of the observational studies make it tricky to interpret the results.

Over the last few decades, there’s been a massive increase in the use of cannabis as an alternative to conventional medicines for managing various diseases and symptoms, including cancer-related pain. This trend is thought to be driven by several factors, including the discovery of the ECS, which has sped up the development of cannabis-based medicinal products. Despite the lack of high-quality research evidence, it’s not uncommon for cannabis to be used in clinical settings to manage the chronic pain often associated with cancer.

There are several hurdles to conducting research in the medicinal cannabis field. These include the complex effects that occur when hundreds of molecules are administered into the body all at once, the molecular composition of the herbal material being affected by cultivation and processing factors, and the complex nature of cancer pain. These factors, among others, make medicinal cannabis research highly complex.

Despite these challenges, the rapid increase in the availability of products means we need evidence-based practical guidelines to help doctors make decisions. The current review contributes to this field by providing a comprehensive summary of the existing clinical research evidence supporting the pain-relieving effects of medicinal cannabis in cancer patients. A particular focus will be on research that could potentially guide practitioners on how to administer and dose medicinal cannabis to patients suffering from cancer-related pains.

In conclusion, while the use of medicinal cannabis for managing cancer pain shows promise, we need more high-quality clinical trials to establish its effectiveness and safety. This will help in providing evidence-based recommendations to guide the use and dosing of medicinal cannabis in clinical settings.

Please remember, this article is intended to give you an overview of the current state of research on medicinal cannabis for cancer pain management. It’s not intended to serve as medical advice or a recommendation for treatment. Always consult with a healthcare professional for medical advice.