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How Marijuana Can Make Chemotherapy Side Effects More Manageable

As more states in the US join the growing global community of medical marijuana proponents, more and more people are encouraged to try this alternative mode of treatment for their various diseases and ailments. From patients who suffer from depression and anxiety to those living with chronic pain and epilepsy, many people have already attested to the benefits of medical marijuana or cannabis.

The Growing Acceptance of Medical Marijuana

While substantial medical research and academic studies have yet to be established with regard to the curative properties of marijuana, anecdotes from users abound regarding the plant’s positive effects. Marijuana has now evolved from having a bad rap as a recreational drug to a potential miracle cure for many individuals who are desperate for relief from their medical conditions.

The Growing Acceptance of Medical Marijuana

Marijuana has actually been used for centuries by civilizations around the world. The oldest known written record on cannabis use comes from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C. Ancient Greeks and Romans were also familiar with cannabis, while in the Middle East, use spread throughout the Islamic empire to North Africa. Cannabis arrived in Western shores in the 16th century, when Spaniards brought the plant to Chile primarily for use as textile fiber. The practice eventually spread in North America, where hemp (a relative of the cannabis plant) was cultivated in plantations for use in paper, clothing, and other items.

The Effects of Marijuana on Humans

Many people are familiar with marijuana as a recreational substance. The plant, after all, induces a certain “high” or “trip,” which was extremely popular in the post-war era. This was largely regarded as a negative effect and led to the classification of marijuana as an illegal substance almost all over the globe.

However, understanding the effects of marijuana necessitates further appreciation of its chemical composition. The cannabis plant has substances called cannabinoids, which are similarly structured to the endocannabinoids found in the human body. In fact, humans have what is called the endocannabinoid system or ECS, which covers the central and peripheral nervous system. The ECS controls various physiological conditions such as pain, appetite, mood, and memory.

This is the reason why consuming marijuana has such a profound effect on humans. Cannabinoids from the marijuana plant interact with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system, and thus creates positive effects on various physical conditions. Such cannabinoids derived from plants are called phytocannabinoids (as opposed to synthetic cannabinoids that are developed in laboratories and manufactured just like mainstream pharmaceutical drugs).

Cannabis and Cancer

Understanding cannabinoids is important in order to appreciate why cannabis is sought after specifically by cancer patients as an alternative treatment for their condition. Medical marijuana is seen as a promising medication that can help patients manage the side effects of chemotherapy. Cancer patients undergoing such type of standard cancer treatment often experience a host of debilitating and unpleasant conditions, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, and many more. Marijuana has been found to address these conditions effectively, and the plant has made chemotherapy more bearable for many cancer patients. The interaction of cannabinoids on the human ECS is key in addressing these symptoms.

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CBD and THC

The fact is there are almost a hundred types of cannabinoids found in marijuana or cannabis, but the most important ones in relation to the plant’s therapeutic properties are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the one responsible for the psychoactive “high” that marijuana users experience, while CBD is observed to be the one that helps relieve pain, nausea, inflammation, and other unpleasant physical conditions.

However, this is not to say that THC is not altogether beneficial. Some users experience a sense of well-being brought about by the right amount of THC. Thus, many mainstream medical marijuana or cannabis products seek to provide a good balance of CBD and THC in their formulations. A mix of equal parts CBD and THC is usually recommended for general medical purposes as this ratio can sufficiently address a wide range of diseases and symptoms.

Medical marijuana has also been found to help cancer patients with mood and mental conditions, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and others. Cancer is a dreaded disease in itself and is a challenge to endure, and as such many patients have to deal with negative emotions. Medical marijuana, especially with its psychoactive properties, helps cancer sufferers improve their well-being and outlook in life.

Palliative Care for Patients Undergoing Treatment

Similar to cancer patients, patients with HIV and AIDS use medical marijuana extensively for palliative care. This means that medical cannabis is used mainly for the management of symptoms and other conditions related to these diseases. Especially in cases of full-blown HIV infection or AIDS, the patient experiences a lot of symptoms such as chronic pain, weight loss, fatigue, as well as vomiting and nausea. They may also experience depression as well as anxiety and other mental disorders

Medical marijuana has been proven very effective in resolving these symptoms and in improving the overall quality of life of HIV patients and AIDS sufferers. The benefits of using medical marijuana help people with cancer and/or HIV-AIDS achieve a comfortable way of life. This is of great help especially for patients whose disease is terminal, and those who are simply seeking options for a more peaceful way of living with the disease. 

Medical Marijuana Products for Cancer

Cancer patients seeking to try out medical marijuana or cannabis in conjunction with traditional medical treatments such as chemotherapy can choose among a variety of ways to introduce the plant to their system. Each method of taking in marijuana has its own particular effects on the human body. For instance, the most common method of smoking marijuana causes more of the psychoactive high, because heat activates the THC component of the plant.

On the other hand, eating marijuana—either directly or as an ingredient in edibles such as brownies, cookies, etc.—produces the most potent and long-lasting effects, because the chemicals are directly absorbed and metabolized in the liver. Liquid marijuana or cannabis products are among the most popular choice among users because they can be calibrated or dispensed more easily and accurately.

A common and preferred liquid form of medical marijuana is cannabis oil. It can be ingested directly, or incorporated in normal food such as salads and soups in order to make it a more integral part of daily living. It can be mixed with a variety of flavors and foods, which is helpful in preventing fatigue or disinterest on the part of patients. This is why cannabis oil for cancer is popular. Other liquid medical marijuana products can also be vaporized and inhaled with the use of handheld devices, and they can also be sprayed sublingually or under the tongue for immediate effect.

Buying Medical Marijuana Products

With the increasing acceptance of medical marijuana, the market for it has grown exponentially over the past few years. The market has exploded with a wealth of choices in terms of medical marijuana products, especially on the Internet. Those who wish to get started on medical marijuana treatment need to be careful in choosing the right products. First, the authenticity of the product needs to be established. This means that the medical marijuana product should indeed contain genuine cannabinoid content. There are some products made from hemp that are labeled or marketed as marijuana or cannabis, but they reportedly do not have the same effect.

Marijuana products should also be free from harmful chemicals or additives. Cannabis oil, for instance, is manufactured by distilling cannabis flowers and buds (where the concentration of cannabinoids is found), usually in alcohol. However, there are unscrupulous manufacturers who may use solvents or other substances that are not fit for human consumption. Similarly, marijuana or cannabis plants that have been sprayed with insecticide during cultivation will retain these chemicals in their flowers and leaves, and the harmful substance will be present in the cannabis oil or liquid cannabis product developed from them.

In general, the best precaution would be to buy only from legitimate and reputable establishments and sellers, whether online or in brick-and-mortar stores. Also, it may be worth it to go for medical marijuana products that are made from certified organic cannabis plants. Beware of products that are priced too low because they may be too good to be true. The production of medical cannabis is a venture that requires substantial capital, and it is reasonable to expect that genuine cannabis products are priced judiciously for the benefits that they bring.

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The Medical Marijuana Movement

Clamor for medical marijuana has been growing in the past few years, leading to the landmark decision of 29 states in the US, together with the District of Columbia, to pass some form of legislation allowing the purchase, possession, and/or use of cannabis for medical purposes. While at the federal level, marijuana is still deemed illegal, many medical marijuana proponents see this changing in the very near future as support from many more users intensify—especially from the substantial population of cancer patients who will benefit greatly from changing such measures.

The United States is just the latest in a considerable group of countries around the world who have allowed medical marijuana or cannabis in one way or another. Such countries include: Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. Just like the US, Australia is also presently deliberating and passing certain laws that are slowly allowing marijuana for medical use.

Proponents of medical marijuana are cognizant of the fact that regulating the substance is part of making it legal, and as such they are advocating proper and responsible use of it. Medical marijuana users are urged to study the laws very carefully, and to be aware of the specific regulations in the place that they live in. There are differences in laws from state to state, and it pays to be aware of the exact regulations and statutes. It is also important to still keep a doctor or medical professional onboard when undergoing medical marijuana treatment, especially in conjunction with mainstream medical treatments such as chemotherapy for cancer. 

Medical Marijuana for All

By many indications, medical marijuana does seem to be the future of treatment for many diseases that have continued to affect mankind. The challenge is to make it more accessible and useful to a greater number of the population, through awareness and education as well as proper legislation and control. Part of making it accessible is to manufacture and distribute it in more cost-efficient ways, in order to also make it affordable for the greater majority of patients.

Currently, medical marijuana or cannabis is not yet recognized by healthcare insurance programs especially that of the government such as Medicard or Medicaid. Thus, cancer patients who wish to take on this type of treatment should bear the cost themselves. However, a lot of effort is continually being placed behind finally recognizing medical marijuana as a bona fide medical treatment that can be reimbursed as a medical expense. This move will benefit cancer patients who want to improve their condition, increase their chances of overcoming the disease, and enjoy more years to their lives.