Breast Cancer and Cannabis Treatment

One of the earliest and most widely adopted avenues for the medical community accepting cannabis treatment has come in the area of symptom treatment for cancer patients. Chemotherapy and radiation both force patients through a harrowing process with many of its own side effects. Although chemotherapy has made advances to make treatment more bearable in recent years, cannabis has proven itself surprisingly effective in treating symptoms. Between helping to stimulate appetite, relieving chronic pain and dizziness, and helping anxiety, tens of thousand of patients have benefitted from symptom relief via cannabis use as a natural medicine. However, many studies have shown independently that beyond symptoms, cannabis may actually be capable of treating some forms of cancer. In this article, we’ll dig into the evidence pertaining to breast cancer, a very common and aggressive form. Breast cancer, as with all forms of cancer, occurs when cells are duplicating too aggressively. Although there are around 20 variations, most result in tumors forming in the breast tissue which can then spread to other areas of the body and begin to shut down normal operation. Likelihood for developing cancer depends on both genetic variables and lifestyle, but specific risk factors include age, obesity, and high levels of certain hormones. Abnormally high amounts of hormones not only increase the likelihood of developing cancer, but they also increase the rate that the cancer progresses at. As such, breast cancer patients and survivors are often encouraged not to take additional hormones when considering birth control or menopause…

Cannabis and Opioid-Addiction. Part I

The cultural perception of cannabis as a recreational narcotic is one reason many patients are not open to the option of cannabis treatment. As more states begin to offer medicinal cannabis, this cultural perception has largely reversed and enabled genuine research around the benefits of cannabis use.  However, many doctors are still asking cannabis consumers who have found medical benefits, to abstain from cannabis.  Underpinning this type of recommendation is the way marijuana use is classified in addiction rehabilitation centers; many make mandatory rules for those seeking treatment in their facilities to cease all cannabis consumption. These physicians base the decision on the reasoning that even if research has confirmed that cannabis use is safe and effective for controlling some health conditions, cannabis might still interfere with recovery from other addictions or otherwise play a harmful role. As it turns out, new research is showing that the reverse is possible. Many addicts are using cannabis to attenuate the effects of withdrawal and help recovery. However, for the focus of this article, we’ll first focus on a Rhode Island study that asked the question, “Does concurrent marijuana use present additional treatment needs or affect outcomes?” In this study, doctors at an opioid addiction rehabilitation clinic collected frequent drug tests during their rehabilitation program to track both cannabis use and the success of 107 patients in abstaining from opioid use.  They were then able to compare the groups of cannabis users and non-users to analyze whether one group had greater success in…

The Future of Treating PTSD with Cannabis

Culturally, the U.S. has informally associated cannabis use and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for decades. In fact, a shell-shocked war veteran relieving anxiety through cannabis use is somewhat of a cultural touchstone. This stereotype poses an interesting question: why? What is it about cannabis that lends itself as a natural medicine for PTSD? As has been the case with other areas of cannabis research, the cart has arrived before the horse: we are faced with a mountain of empirical evidence in the form of tens of thousands of individuals relying on cannabis for symptom relief, and yet only finally beginning to crack the science behind it. PTSD is characterized by 3 major groups of symptoms: persistent re-experience of the traumatic event persistent increased psychological arousal (being overly “awake” or sensitive to stimuli) persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic incident. To describe in layman’s terms, what has happened is that the memory and anxiety systems of the brain have been knocked out of normal functioning via a particularly traumatic event in the patient’s life. The memory of that event has been consolidated very deeply into the brain, and as an adaptive mechanism, the brain now accesses that memory over and over again, forcing the individual to relive the trauma on a frequent basis and preventing the memory from being dampened or extinguished healthily. While remembering trauma can keep us from injuring ourselves the same way twice, this is a case where the brain has become over-vigilant and is doing…

Treating Stress & Anxiety Disorders with Cannabis

If you’re a patient suffering from stress or anxiety, there’s good news: researchers are making interesting new in-roads into the biological mechanisms capable of alleviating these conditions.  A recent report published in the medical journal Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders sheds light on the effects cannabis use might have on alleviating stress and anxiety by focusing on endogenous cannabinoids (eCBs) found in cannabis and their respective brain receptors. A growing body of evidence has shown that this system plays crucial roles in managing stress, anxiety, and stress-related psychiatric illness. So far, one of the most useful approaches to understanding the eCB system has been to utilize genetically modified mice. In this approach, researchers delete genes that produce cannabinoid receptors, rendering the mice unable to absorb/use cannabinoids. Scientists have found that these mice exhibit a trend of high anxiety, impaired stress coping, and stress-induced psychopathology (gauged by accepted benchmark tests for rodents). While these effects seem to depend on what part of the brain and what specific neurons the receptors are attached to, the overwhelming trend is that mice lacking receptors also perform poorly, which implies that the eCB system is an essential part of stress and anxiety management. Another useful approach has been investigating chemical inhibitors that slow the rate of the enzymes (FAAH and MAGL) that naturally dispose/recycle eCBs. This approach is similar to many commercially available anti-depressants: the pill itself does not contain serotonin (the lack of which has been related to mood disorder), but rather a…