Medical Marijuana Can Be Helpful

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

MAY 09, 2018

  Let's get right to the bottom line: Medical marijuana, cannabis, can be helpful to some patients. It is not, however, a magic bullet and does not always achieve the desired results. Think of it as one more possibility of meds or strategies that may help nausea or pain or anxiety or fatigue. As long as I have been practicing, there have been people who purchased weed in the world and others who asked their doctors for the pill that contains THC. Now that Massachusetts has joined another 28 states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medicinal marijuana, it comes up more often. 

  The process in MA to obtain the substance is not so straightforward; it involves both getting a prescription and then going to one of the few pharmacies to obtain it. I don't know what the practices are at other hospitals, but few, if any, of our doctors will prescribe it. Their stated reason is that it is not federally a legal drug, and they are uncertain of possible future troubles about writing these prescriptions. This means that patients have to find a doctor who will cooperate, and adding one more medical person and appointment can be stressful. Some people prefer at this point to go back to the streets or their contacts. 

  This article from Medscape describes a recent study from Israel that indicated a number of positive results from the use of cannabis. It has been medically legal there since 2007, so there is some history and data to examine. Used primarily to palliate cancer symptoms, it seems to have worked pretty well for many people.

  Here is the start and a link to read more:

For Cancer, Cannabis Has Many Virtues, Says Large Study

Nick Mulcahy

Cannabis, or marijuana, may improve a variety of cancer related
symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, sleep
disorders, pain, anxiety, and depression, conclude the authors of a 2960patient
observational study from Israel.
The study was published online March 5 in the European Journal of Internal Medicine.
It provides a large scale portrait of who used medical cannabis for what cancers, and what benefits they derived
during a 6 month period.
The study population consisted mostly of patients with advanced stage
cancers (51.2%, stage 4). At 6 months, about
25% of the study population had died.
Of the 1742 patients who survived to 6 months and who finished the study protocol, 60% achieved "treatment
success," report Victor Novack, MD, PhD, director of the Cannabis Clinical Research Center and Research Authority,
Soroka University Medical Center, Beersheba, Israel, and colleagues
The study's primary efficacy outcome was treatment success, which was defined as moderate or significant
improvement in patients' overall condition at 6 months, as well as not quitting treatment and not having serious side
Notably, factors associated with success were previous experience with cannabis, high levels of pain, young age, and
lack of concerns regarding possible negative effects of cannabis treatment.

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