Can Marijuana Help Chemotherapy?

Learn how marijuana can help patients going through chemotherapy in this Howcast video.

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Anything you ever wanted to know about marijuana is in these videos. Sunil Kuman Aggarwal, M.D. and Steph Sherer of Americans for Safe Access give the lowdown on synthetic marijuana; the efforts to legalize marijuana; what's involved in getting a medical marijuana card; the effects of eating pot vs. smoking it; medicinal uses for marijuana; and much more.

 
 

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The use of marijuana to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy has been around for almost 30 years or more in the United States. In fact, the very first wave of medical marijuana laws were in the 70's and early 80's and they were geared toward patients using marijuana in studies who were receiving cancer chemotherapy. The amazing thing is the marijuana has a dramatic effect on relieving nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Turns out there are receptors or meaning little locks, molecular locks in the part of your brain stem that are involved in the vomiting circuit, the nausea circuit. Those locks are actually the keys, the chemical keys that help to change those locks situation is found in marijuana and so like lock fits a key or a key fits into a lock, marijuana can directly chemically change your state of nausea and vomiting. So that has a huge impact. It's been studied in clinical studies and been show to relieve chemotherapy related nausea and vomiting. Also the government helped to back studies to make certain chemicals, single molecule pills derived from marijuana compounds and those have been approved by the FDA for the relief of nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy. Without this discovery, we really wouldn't have moved medical marijuana as far forward as we have today. Oncologists are surveyed even in prestigious medical centers, even as far as in the early 90's were reporting a large percentage that they would be recommending marijuana to their patients to tolerate the effects of chemotherapy. It turns out nowadays, we even know that marijuana has anti- cancer chemicals in it that we've been able to show that some compounds in marijuana can kill cancer cells in Petri dishes and animals and in one human study. So some groups have called for the use of marijuana compounds in chemotherapy regimen themselves, so that's a very exciting development and can potentially help to relieve not just the effects of cancer related chemotherapy, but cancer itself. So marijuana has a lot of promise in this area.

Experts

  • Americans for Safe Access

    Americans for Safe Access is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

  • Dr. Sunil Kumar Aggarwal

    Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, M.D., 2010, Ph.D. Medical Geography, 2008 (UW) completed his internship at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington and is currently a Resident in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at NYU’s Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine. As an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Dr. Aggarwal conducted studies of medical cannabis use under the first-ever granted federal Certificates of Confidentiality with 176 patients recruited from sites of both cannabis delivery and medical consultation. He has authored or co-authored peer-reviewed papers on cannabinoid medical science, dosing, and human rights in addition to a book chapter in a Palliative Medicine textbook and another for the general public.