One of the most well-known purported uses for medical marijuana is to alleviate symptoms related to cancer treatment, and a new study finds that use of the drug among cancer patients is not uncommon.
In the study, which included more than 900 cancer patients in Seattle, nearly one-quarter reported using medical marijuana in the past year. In addition, almost all the participants said they wanted to learn more about medical marijuana, according to the study, published today (Sept. 25) in the journal Cancer. [LiveScience]
On the surface, the researchers’ findings may seem intuitive. It’s well-known that many cancer patients have turned to medical marijuana for help alleviating their symptoms and cancer ranks among the most widely approved qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in states where its use is legal. Further, it comes as no surprise that patients treating a serious condition with a complex range of symptoms would be eager to learn more about any available treatment option.
The study’s results, however, also point towards a couple important topics in the broader discussion surrounding medical marijuana’s role in promoting public health. First, the authors report that “Legalization significantly increased the likelihood of use in more than half of the respondents,” demonstrating the importance of regulated medical marijuana programs in making this treatment option available to patients in need. The ability to access quality-controlled products in a safe and secure environment has long been a priority for patients considering cannabis as a treatment option. Efforts to establish responsibly run medical marijuana programs will continue to expand access for these patients and it’s important for all stakeholders to understand the critical role such programs play in ensuring that anyone living with a serious illness has this option available to them.
It’s also interesting to note the significant percentage of patients who stated that they’d appreciate receiving more information about medical cannabis from their doctors. The researchers stated that “Cancer patients desire but are not receiving information about cannabis use during their treatment from oncology providers.” This finding is consistent with the experiences many patients have shared with us regarding the difficulty of finding medical practitioners who are familiar with medical cannabis treatment. We’ve certainly had the pleasure of getting to know many superb physicians who’ve worked to educate their patients about cannabis, but it’s true that some practitioners have more experience in this area than others.
This issue highlights the importance of expanding clinical research so that all medical practitioners have access to extensive empirical data that informs the guidance they provide to patients. Collaboration between cannabis providers and healthcare institutions can also play an important role in bridging knowledge gaps where they exist and ensuring that all patients receive comprehensive information upon which to base their treatment decisions. We’ve worked to make ourselves available to both patients and practitioners and we believe strongly that knowledge is the key to making medical cannabis an effective treatment option for those who need it most.