For thousands of years cannabis has provided humans with medicinal relief. From chronic pain to nausea, cannabis is well-known as an effective form of treatment. But what about cancer? Cancer refers to a number of related diseases that kill 7.6 million people worldwide every year. With such a large number of people affected by cancer, the marathon to find the cure for cancer has been happening for awhile now. So where does cannabis come in?
Marijuana, a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical value, according to the federal government, was found to kill cancer cells in a laboratory setting. At least according to the National Cancer Institute, an organization known as the “U.S. government’s principal agency for cancer research,” cannabis has been found to activate receptors found in the immune system. Although the plant is still federally illegal, the chemical components of cannabis (called cannabinoids) are approved for cancer treatment. These cannabinoids can be produced synthetically and made available commercially from pharmaceutical companies looking to cash in on the cannabis business for cancer research.
Although the federal government won’t officially admit the medicinal benefits of cannabis but do admit to the medical benefits of synthetic cannabinoids, a majority of the people living in the United States do see the medicinal benefits of cannabis. This is evident by the fact that 25 states and the District of Columbia legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Oncologists also seem to support the notion of cannabis as part of cancer treatment, though they are cautious to apply the word “cure.” Why? If cannabis fights cancer, shouldn’t we be spreading the word?
The word “cure” is tossed around a lot in the cancer community, packs a big and sometimes inconsistent meaning. For some, the cure for cancer means the end-all, be-all answer to stopping cancer in its tracks. According to Dr. Abrams, the cure for cancer implies a five-year survival rate with zero evidence of cancer returning. When you bring the medical benefits of cannabis to the picture, it is definitely not the be-all end-all cure for cancer. One oncologist’s view of marijuana is reflective of the general consensus within the cancer community: You cannot deny the benefits of cancer for treating cancer symptoms and cancer treatment side-effects, “But the jury is still out on whether cannabis can actually cure cancer.”
Cannabinoid oil has provided us with many stories of cancer tumors disappearing. But many of these stories don’t include methods of conventional cancer treatments, and some stories have exaggerated claims and leave out other important facts.
Yes, some stories display powerful examples of the curative power of cannabis for treating and eliminating cancer cells, but to the medical community, these are just stories, which are worthless without hard data and replicable results.
Cannabis cancer research has promise, but more work needs to be done. Yes, it’s true that cannabinoids have been shown to slow down or stop the growth of cancer cells (otherwise the National Cancer Institute would still be anti-marijuana). But research has also been limited to preclinical studies. In order to know the truth about cannabis and cancer, rigorous clinical and pharmacological studies will need to be done. Which means more research with marijuana will need to be more easily accessible, something the federal government is finally opening up to.
Before more research shows evidence that cannabis can cure cancer, remember how to approach the word “cure.” The truth is, there will likely never be a be-all end-all cure for cancer because cancer refers to a group of diseases; no one person’s abnormal cell growth will be the exact same as the next person. And even if doctors can find a conclusive cure for cancer, the pharmaceutical industry might not let that get very far unless they can continue to make money on this billion dollar industry.
So cannabis may not be the ultimate cure for cancer. But it certainly is an effective form of cancer treatment. We’ll just have to wait for more robust research to be done so people can finally start getting access to a medicine that’s been helping humans for thousands of years.
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