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Medical Cannabis in Cancer Care

Image of Shawna Kraft, Pharm.D
Shawna Kraft, Pharm.D.

What kinds of symptoms can be treated and why does it work?

Medical cannabis (marijuana) became legal in the state of Michigan in 2008.

The likely main active ingredient is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which has activity in parts of our brains that control pain, appetite, muscle relaxation and more.

Decreased appetite is one symptom that may be treated by medical marijuana. Because cannabis affects the appetite center in our brains, it can increase appetite.

Cannabis may also help with nausea and vomiting since it has direct effects on the vomiting center in our brains. A synthetic THC (dronabinol) is sometimes prescribed for patients with low appetite or nausea.

Using cannabis for pain may or may not be helpful depending on the patient, type of pain and potential side effects.

A few words of caution:

Federal law still deems cannabis illegal (medical or recreational use), although you are unlikely to be arrested if you have a medical marijuana card in Michigan.

Depending on your type of cancer, it may not be safe for you to use cannabis, or only safe if you use certain forms. Be sure to talk with your care team.

Have a question for the pharmacist? Email us at [email protected].

Continue reading the Spring, 2018 issue of Thrive.

Thrive Issue: 
Spring, 2018