One of the illnesses that cannabis is most frequently used to treat is cancer. Regardless of the type of cancer that a patient is suffering from, medical cannabis has the potential to ease the symptoms of either the illness itself, side effects of common treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, or both. Since medical marijuana was first legalized over twenty years ago in California, there has been a growing number of people in 29 states across the nation and D.C. have turned to medical marijuana as a safer and often more effective alternative.
A recent survey out of Washington state suggests that at least 25% of all cancer patients are using medical marijuana. The study included over 900 patients from the Seattle Cancer Center Alliance. Over two-thirds of the patients surveyed said they had used medical marijuana in the past, while a quarter of those surveyed (25%) said they have used it in the past year. Slightly less (21%) said that they had used the herb in the last month, and 18% reported that they had used medical marijuana within the last week.
“Cancer patients desire, but are not receiving, information from their cancer doctors about marijuana use during their treatment, so many of them are seeking information from alternate nonscientific sources,” said study author Dr. Steven Pergam of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
Of those surveyed, most current users said that they either smoked or consumed edibles to take the medical cannabis. They also stated that the most common reasons for consuming cannabis was to ease symptoms of pain and nausea, and to cope with mental health symptoms like stress, depression and insomnia. The results of the study were published in the online peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.
“We hope that this study helps to open up the door for more studies aimed at evaluating the risks and benefits of marijuana in this population,” Pergam said in a journal news release. “This is important, because if we do not educate our patients about marijuana, they will continue to get their information elsewhere.”
The study also found that 74% of patients wanted to be provided with more information about medical marijuana as a treatment option, but that they wanted to be given that information from cancer care providers. Since the majority of healthcare providers are not properly trained and educated to provide information about medical marijuana, patients end up searching for the information on their own, generally online.