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Medical Marijuana for Lung Cancer?

Right now, the legalization of marijuana has a lot of hype surrounding it. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there is an important factor to consider—medicinal usage of the drug. Currently, a plethora of research has been completed, and is currently underway surrounding the potential benefits of medical marijuana. Many of us may have heard of its benefits for autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis or Crohn’s disease, but what about in regards to cancer? Cancer is actually one of the most well-studied when it comes to medical marijuana, and the results may surprise you.

What Exactly Is It?

The term marijuana refers to the dried leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant. This plant has been widely used throughout history, in everything from herbal remedies, to clothing. Currently, it is a Schedule-1 Controlled Substance in the US, which means you can’t legally possess it or sell it. However, recently, many states have chosen to adjust these regulations, especially in regards to medicinal use of the plant.

The main components of interest in marijuana are the cannabinoid compounds that it contains. These cannabinoids include delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD), and these two are usually the most talked about when it comes to marijuana. THC is the component typically responsible for the “high” feeling many experience when using marijuana. However, it can also act as an antioxidant, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain and nausea. CBD, on the other hand, isn’t typically associated with the psychoactive elements of the drug, and works to treat seizures, as well as alleviate anxiety and paranoia. Strains of marijuana can be cultivated with different amounts of THC and CBD to achieve desired results.

How Is It Used?

The cannabinoids act on the body in different ways based on how they are ingested. Ingesting via mouth can lead to longer absorption times and potentially mind-altering side products produced during processing in the liver. Smoking or inhaling the drug on the other hand, can often produce quicker results, and lead to fewer side products formed. Currently, there are two medications approved for usage in the US that are based on cannabinoids, dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet). Dronabinol is THC-containing and can help with nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite. Nabilone helps with similar things, but is synthetically made and doesn’t actually contain THC. Few side effects with these have been reported, and generally increase in prevalence with age. These include decreased blood pressure, increased heart rate, dizziness, drowsiness, mood changes, potential psychoactive changes, and lightheadedness.

Right now, there are many clinical trials being performed, and many already completed, that have shown that cannabinoids have the ability to reduce nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, increase appetite, and even slow the progression of some cancer cell lines. While it shouldn’t be used as a standalone treatment, incorporating cannabinoids into your regimen may provide additional benefits. Many providers are open to talking about the potential of medical marijuana, and may have great insights into its potential for your specific case!1-2

  1. “Marijuana and Cancer.” American Cancer Society. 2017. Available from:
  2. "Cannabis and Cannabinoids." National Cancer Institute. 2016. Available from: