Results From The Largest Cannabis Study Ever Conducted
Let’s face it—cancer really sucks. It’s scary, painful, and the leading cause of death. Cancer patients must take a wide range of medications that often further their discomfort with countless negative side effects. For those that undergo surgery, one in ten will become dependant on opioids, which is a significant new danger in itself.
For those suffering from cancer, anything that can help them get through the day a little easier is a huge blessing. For many patients, that blessing comes in the form of a sticky green herb.
A newly published study—the largest ever of its kind—has revealed concrete evidence that cannabis can be a safe and effective treatment for the slew of negative side effects from which cancer patients suffer.
Published in the March 2018 volume of The European Journal of Internal Medicine, the study, done in collaboration with the Clinical Cannabis Research Institute at Soroka University Medical Center, studied almost 3,000 cancer patients at Tikun Olam clinics in Israel. Meaning “repair the world” in Hebrew, Tikun Olam’s global mission is to research, develop, and provide efficacious, data-based cannabis treatments to help those suffering from debilitating diseases. Tikun Olam is globally recognized as the pioneer of modern medical cannabis.
The patients in the study were prescribed one or more of Tikun Olam’s proprietary cannabis strains, then data was routinely collected between 2015 and 2017.
Over 80% of the patients reported a moderate or significant improvement in their condition after using cannabis. The most improved symptoms were nausea and vomiting (91.0%), sleep disorders (87.5%), restlessness (87.5%), and anxiety and depression (84.2%).
Perhaps even more noteworthy, patients found themselves able to greatly reduce their opioid use. Prior to treatment initiation, 52.9% of patients reported their pain to be in the interval of 8/10 to 10/10 (10 being worst pain imaginable), while only 4.6% reported this intensity after six months of treatment. Since their pain was lowered considerably, medical cannabis helped 10% of those patients decrease their opioid dosage, while an astounding 36% were able to quit taking opioids entirely.
These results came as no shock to Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider, the lead researcher on the study. "After working as a medical director for 10 years, seeing the patients and their families, I wasn't surprised at all by the results of our study. I was happy that we now have the available data to show what we see every day in our clinic,” she said.
The amazing thing about cannabis is that it’s effective at treating so many symptoms. Patients that had to take a different medication for each individual symptom are finding that, with cannabis, they can greatly reduce the other medications they take.
"Here we have one treatment that can target more than one symptom, improving general quality of life, increasing appetite, and reducing pain in cancer patients,” Schleider explained.
It’s important to note that not every cancer patient experienced improvements from using cannabis. After six months, 18.8% of those in the study had opted to end their cannabis treatment. The most common side effects were dizziness (8%) and dry mouth (7.3%).
"Cannabis is not a magic treatment. Some people will not benefit from it and they can experience adverse effects,” Schleider noted. “But if we look at the other 80%, most patients improve in their condition in many aspects. We believe cannabis is a safe and effective treatment for most patients, and that its side effects are mild and relatively easy to cope with."
Hopefully these findings will influence doctors and lawmakers to take cannabis more seriously as an effective medicine that can alleviate the suffering of so many people. When asked whether she believes this study will make an impact on the medical community, Schleider responded:
"One study is never enough. But every piece of data and every study published regarding cannabis treatment is one more piece of the puzzle. At Tikun Olam, we have a research department dedicated to conducting clinical trials. Hopefully we will have even more positive results and our research will add a few more pieces into that huge puzzle."
That puzzle still has many pieces to be filled in, but its picture is beginning to take shape: cannabis can help reduce the use of dangerous opioid painkillers while undeniably improving the quality of life of cancer patients. We should be doing everything in our power to make cancer patients’ lives more comfortable, and it’s clear that cannabis can be a solution for easing pain and suffering in those that need it most.
Zoë Biehl is a full-time writer and editor originally from New York. She now spends her life slowly traveling the world, and is currently based in Tel Aviv, Israel.