Cancer patients receiving palliative care that recently used cannabis experienced more severe pain and symptoms than those who didn’t, though they overall perceived more positive results, according to a recent study.
More than a quarter (26%) of nearly 300 senior palliative care patients perceived benefits for pain and other symptoms after using cannabis during 30 days of cancer treatments at the National Cancer Institute, according to a recent study published in the American Cancer Society Journals.
Despite these perceptions, these patients also reported feeling worse physically and psychologically compared to individuals who did not use cannabis within the same time frame, the study found.
“Participants most commonly reported using cannabis for pain, cancer, sleep, anxiety and nausea/vomiting and reported the greatest perceived benefits for sleep, nausea/vomiting, headaches, pain, muscle spasms and anxiety,” researchers stated. “Patients with cancer who used cannabis perceived benefits for many symptoms, although they showed worse overall symptomatology.”
The study spanned a number of sociodemographic characteristics, as well as physical and psychological symptoms. Participants were 58 years-old on average and primarily female Caucasians.
Patients that utilized cannabis were more likely to be younger, male, African American, disabled, have lower incomes and have Medicaid insurance, researchers indicated.
The modalities of cannabis use varied, with 65% of palliative cancer patients indicating edible usage and 51% smoking.
About 18% of study participants had a medical cannabis license, with more than a third (35%) utilizing marijuana during the last year.
To date, 38 states, three territories and the District of Columbia permit the medical use of cannabis products, according to recent data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. In other words, nearly 90% of states across the country have some form of legalized cannabis use.
More research is needed to dig deeper into the impacts of cannabis use for pain and symptom management in patients with serious and terminal illnesses, according to Dr. Karl Steinberg, medical director for Hospice by the Sea.
“With cannabinoids, we don’t typically prescribe them very much,” Steinberg told Hospice News. “Cannabis products are a lot stronger than they used to be. A lot of times they can improve appetites, which is sometimes good for a hospice patient. I think the biggest hesitancy and unease is that you don’t necessarily understand everything that is in it to know exactly what a patient is going to get with that prescription.”