Is the Trend of Cancer Patients Opting for Medical Cannabis on the Rise?

Is the Trend of Cancer Patients Opting for Medical Cannabis on the Rise?

A recent study published in JAMA Oncology suggests that an increasing number of cancer patients are turning to medical cannabis for symptom relief instead of prescription opioids. This trend could be attributed to the difficulty patients face in managing symptoms associated with cancer and its treatments, including chemotherapy and prescription drugs.

The study analyzed patient data for 38,189 individuals who were newly diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as 12,816 patients with colorectal cancer and 7,190 patients with lung cancer. Participants were between the ages of 18 to 64 years old. The study found that state legalization of cannabis between 2012 and 2017 coincided with a reduction in the rate of opioid dispensing for patients with cancer. Researchers shared that there was a relative reduction in opioid dispensing ranging from 5.5% to 19.2%.

In addition to opioid dispensing, hospitalizations of cancer patients with moderate to severe pain also declined between 2012 and 2017. The report theorized that some patients might have found relief from chronic pain due to medical cannabis use.

Patients who require long-term treatment for cancer may explore doctor-supervised medical cannabis as an alternative option since opioids may not be safe for long-term use. Some common side effects of opioids include addiction (OUD), increased sensitivity to neuropathic pain, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, and mood disorders such as depression.

The opioid epidemic has been a growing concern for decades, and it is estimated that 1.2 million North Americans will die from opioid overdoses by 2030 if policies are not changed to protect patients. Medical cannabis offers an appealing alternative option as it is understood to be safer than opioids for long-term use.

Medical cannabis should be considered as part of integrated treatment plans by physicians treating cancer patients. A separate care provider can be designated for cannabis-related needs such as follow-up visits and consultations. Providers can work together to monitor what works best for reducing debilitating symptoms for the patient.

In conclusion, medical cannabis may help cancer patients manage symptoms better and could potentially decrease reliance on opioids. With more states legalizing medical cannabis, it’s important for physicians to educate themselves on the potential benefits and risks associated with its use so they can discuss it with their patients on an informed level. Medical cannabis should be considered as part of an integrated treatment plan alongside other therapies such as chemotherapy and prescription drugs.

Dr. Paul Miller, MD

Dr. Miller is committed to finding new and innovative ways to help his patients manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. He has a particular interest in the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis and is passionate about educating both his colleagues and patients on its safe and effective use. He is also committed to continuing his education and staying up-to-date on the latest advances in neurology and cannabis research.

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