What Is Being Claimed And What Is True About Cannabis Oil’s Ability To Impact Cancer?
By Riaan van der Walt
Who’s Opinion Can You Trust?
OK, let me start with the full disclosure part of this article: I have no interest in either side of this argument being true…I point this out because I have never researched anything where so much false information is present on both sides of the argument! On its own, that was eye opening for me, and made researching this topic very challenging! Second point, I am purely discussing the issue of medicinal use of cannabis…recreational use is a completely different set of facts and a long topic on its own. Last point, besides this being a hot topic at the moment, I do have a personal reason for caring what the truth is here, my mom lost her partner to lung cancer and cannabis oil was obviously a huge topic of family discussion…so lets get to it!
What Is Being Claimed?
On the one hand, the extreme pro medical cannabis movement is claiming that cannabis is a cure for virtually everything from cancer to alzheimer’s, and those that oppose them in the extreme, claim it is a gateway drug, all but guaranteed to cause psychosis. Very few people on either side, with noteworthy exceptions, are interested in evidence on the matter…so what does that say?
Is It Bad For You?
Well, yes. In very high doses, the risk of Psychosis is present, but not high, and given that until recently the vast majority of cannabis was taken in via smoking, even for medicinal purposes, the effects of toxins from combustion being repeatedly inhaled are well established as really bad for you!
But, compared with other drugs used to treat chronic life threatening conditions such as chemotherapy and opioids, the side effect profile of cannabis isn’t just acceptable, it is a radical improvement! A good way to illustrate this is that no person has ever died from a cannabis overdose, whereas almost all medications in your house right now, can kill you if taken in overdose. Even the humble paracetamol is guilty of this charge…A surprising fact about cannabis is that it is also not as addictive as many people think. Nicotine and alcohol rank higher in terms of addictiveness not to mention the alternatives most commonly used as pain relief in chronic illness which are opioids. These are highly addictive! So by far, the lesser of two evils in the regard of safety.
Does It Cure Cancer? (The Main Claim)
Well, sadly no…despite the fact that some research has shown the chemicals in cannabis act as effective cancer cell retardants, there is no peer reviewed evidence of cannabis oil curing cancer that I am aware of. Despite this, there is such a huge amount of anecdotal evidence (Individuals who use it and cancer goes into remission) that the quantity of current and recently published research is phenomenal. This makes me confident that if there is anything to this claim that we are missing, it is likely to be discovered. It also goes a long way to busting the conspiracy theory that government or big pharma are blocking the discovery.
So If It Doesn’t Cure Cancer, Why Do So Many People Claim It Does?
There are two clear reasons here: Firstly, unlike many cancers themselves, the chemotherapy to try and cure cancer or the drugs to manage pain, that all cause nausea and reduce appetite, cannabis increases appetite! This critical difference is why it really does seem that people who take cannabis oil as part of their cancer pain management can fight a little bit harder and for longer, require less traditionally used pain medication like opioids (which have a lot of side effects), stay more positive during treatment, don’t get secondary infections as often as other patients, make it through surgeries a bit better etc etc etc…because they are not suffering from malnutrition in addition to having cancer. All of these small successes accumulate to giving patients a slightly better fighting chance. Please note that the research comparing those who use only cannabis vs those that use traditional medical therapy and cannabis vs those that use only traditional medical therapy is yet to be done, but these outcomes and the mechanisms behind them are undeniable and plain for the medical community to see and comment on.
The second reason for at least some of the anecdotal evidence is just luck or co-incidence. Anyone who experiences spontaneous remission from cancer will look to understand what happened, true or not, and this is why facts that you and I should trust when making life and death decisions need to come from science and research, not from individual stories.
With all this in mind, what would I do…given that I live in South Africa, where it has become pseudo-legal to own and use personal quantities of cannabis, I would use cannabis as part of my pain management for cancer, knowing that this would increase my chances of beating cancer by a small, yet significant margin that is yet undefined. But when it comes to what treatments to consider to give me the best chance to kill the cancer itself…that’s where my oncologist would have my unreserved trust.
I wish you the best in your health and your year!