New Zealand, like many countries, is still grappling with medical cannabis, and what to do about it. Oncologists revealed to The Nation between 40 and 60% of their patients use medical cannabis for cancer. Newshub reports on the use of medical marijuana for cancer.
Medical cannabis for cancer as a last resort
Dawn, a patient with a rare and extremely painful form of cancer, says she is using medical cannabis to replace morphine. She is not keen on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, and she is using it as a last resort.
She says there is no other option for her to manage the pain since she does not want to return to using morphine. Her daughter Toni is a medical student and describes the change in her mom as “miraculous.” She wants to raise crowdfunding to make a documentary on the evidence in favor of using medicinal cannabis for cancer.
Doctors could be suspended
Toni had huge feedback from the medical fraternity, specialists and GPs. More than 15 doctors admitted that they help their patients to get cannabis. These doctors are putting their careers on the line by helping patients to get medical marijuana. If they get caught, they could be suspended from practicing.
More than half of cancer patients use cannabis
Oncologist Anthony Falkov says he estimates that 40 – 60% of his patients use medicinal cannabis, and he says it may have benefits beyond pain relief. Most patients start using it to increase cancer control rates, and it may very well be working. Secondly, patients use medicinal cannabis for pain, and thirdly to improve appetite. A lot of patients use it for anxiety, nausea and vomiting.
Cannabis should be taken seriously
Falkov wants to see cannabis being taken seriously like any other medicine. If it stopped being a clandestine treatment, doctors could gather data from their patients, and this could provide a clearer picture of how effective medical cannabis for caner might be.
Dr Falkov believes that the stigma attached to cannabis is a hurdle to progress. He says it might be a miracle drug, but doctors need proof. He doesn’t want to give people too much hope, but he also doesn’t want it to fall by the wayside. If it weren’t for the stigma, he believes drug companies would be rushing to develop cannabis-based medicines.
Patients use marijuana sensibly
Medical practitioners that were interviewed agreed medical marijuana is not for everyone. The consensus seems to be that when patients use it with discretion, sensible medical cannabis use can work where prescription medicines were ineffective.
A former director of Bruwood Hospital, says he impressed by the fact that his patients don’t seem to use increasing amounts of cannabis when self-medicating. He says between 20 and 30% of his spinal cord injury patients use it. He would like New Zealand to follow a system similar to Canada. It’s system means people can grow medical cannabis, get someone else to grow it, or get a government supply.
WHO may reclassify medical cannabis
The World Health Organization is considering reclassifying cannabis under international law. If the WHO were to recognize cannabis as a medicine, it would do much to address the stigma that is still associated with medical cannabis use.
Does medical cannabis for cancer work? More research is needed, and a WHO reclassification should spur further research efforts. Meanwhile, cancer patients are going ahead with cannabis use hoping for a cure, or at least some form of relief.