Can you take medical cannabis or CBD while undergoing conventional cancer treatment?

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  • Updated 508 days ago
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For people going through cancer treatment, the thought of an alternative therapy that could alleviate unpleasant side effects such as nausea and pain can be very appealing.

While research into whether or not cannabis products can affect cancerous cells themselves is ongoing, there is already a lot of evidence that CBD and THC can help to manage treatment side effects.

The question many patients have is whether or not it is safe to take medical cannabis or CBD when they are undergoing a course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Benefits of Medical Cannabis and CBD for Cancer Patients

Conventional cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, save millions of lives each year.

However, along with benefits, come unpleasant and painful side effects.

Research has shown that cannabis products can help alleviate symptoms associated with chemotherapy, including:

  • Digestive problems:Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • Pain: Neuropathic and inflammatory pain
  • Emotional well-being:Anxiety, low mood, and insomnia

Medical Cannabis

Researchers have found that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can be as effective as other prescription medications used to treat digestive issues associated with chemotherapy.

However, in some cases,they may have fewer unpleasant side effects.

In states where medical cannabis is legal, patients can have THC-based medications dronabinol (Marinol), and nabilone (Cesamet) prescribed to them when another medication has not been effective.

Currently, these synthetic forms of THC are approved by the FDA to treat nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy side effects.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is effective in helping inflammatory pain as well as neuropathic pain, which happens when nerve endings are damaged.

Both of these are common side effects associated with chemotherapy treatment, cancer surgery, as well as with cancer itself.

Research has also shown that CBD can help with:

  • Neuropathic pain
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Insomnia

It may also help to reduce the tumor size.

Cannabinoid Drugs

Two chemically pure drugs are allowed in the USA for medical use:

  • Nabilone (Cesamet®): It is a synthetic cannabinoid with a function similar to that of THC. It can be used to manage nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
  • Dronabinol (Marinol®): It is a capsule with THC and is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to manage nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. It can also help to manage poor appetite and weight loss in patients with AIDS.

Besides, Nabiximols is also a cannabinoid drug that is under study in America. It is a mouth spray with THC and CBD available in Canada and Europe to manage cancer-related pains.

Is it Safe to intake CBD and Medical Cannabis during Chemo?

One of the biggest concerns cancer patients have when considering medical cannabis is whether or not the drug will interact with their other medications.

While more research into possible drug interactions is ongoing, current findings are promising and show that CBD or cannabis will not interfere with the efficacy of other drugs.

However, the general approach is to start with very small doses and increase depending on how your body reacts.

It is important always to inform the medical team that you are taking other supplements or medications so they can monitor your condition accordingly.

As with all medicine, there are potential side effects associated with medical cannabis. These vary from individual to individual but can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Decreased concentration
  • Confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor coordination

Factors to Consider Before Buying CBD

Some of the factors to consider are:

  • Quality
  • Third-party tested
  • Dosage and strain
  • Ingredients
  • Source

Ways to Consume Cannabis Products

Some common ways to take them are:

  • Edibles (most common)
  • Vaporization
  • Smoking
  • Oils and tinctures

Final Thoughts

If you live in a state where medical cannabis is legal, talk to your medical team about your options. If there is a cancer patient support group near you, it can be helpful to speak to someone who has gone through the process of finding a product locally that works for them.

This advice may help point you in the right direction, but always remember that as with conventional medication, it can take time to find the exact right product and dosage that suits your body.

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