Cancer patients who use medical marijuana experience less pain and a better quality of life, Israeli researchers report.
And, their new study found, that these patients were able to rely less on opioid painkillers, with minimal side effects.
“I hope people pay attention to the results of this study and use cannabis when appropriate for patients who need it,” says Dr. Alex Bekker, professor and chairman of the department of anesthesiology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, in Newark.
Doctors reluctant to prescribe medical marijuana
Many doctors are still reluctant to prescribe marijuana for chronic pain, he said.
“Physicians have a difficult time using cannabis, simply because of historical perspective, and it’s still federally not authorized,” says Bekker, who reviewed the study findings.
A majority of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.
But because it is still considered illegal by the federal government, it hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and therefore is not covered by government or private health insurance, Bekker explains.
“Articles like this are important to persuade lawmakers that there’s something good for a patient and we’re not using it for some strange reason, which is the kind of propaganda that’s existed for many years,” he adds.
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How medical marijuana can help cancer patients
Pain, depression, anxiety and insomnia all affect patients undergoing cancer treatment and can lead to a poor prognosis, doctors say.
“Traditionally, cancer-related pain is mainly treated by opioid analgesics, but most oncologists perceive opioid treatment as hazardous, so alternative therapies are required,” researcher David Meiri said in a written statement. Meiri is an assistant professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa.
For the study, his team followed 324 cancer patients who used medical marijuana over six months. The patients experienced