About 25% of People with Cancer Use Marijuana, Study Says

By Staff.

Approximately 25% of cancer patients uses marijuana in the past year for mostly physical and psychological pain, says a new study published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

The study was conducted in a cancer center in Washington, where medical and recreational marijuana is legal.  The study also found that legalization of marijuana increased the likelihood for use among patients.

Marijuana has been shown to help cancer patients manage may symptoms related to cancer, but patterns of marijuana use are not well known, which is why Steven Pergam, MD, MPH, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and his colleagues surveyed 926 patients at the Seattle Cancer Center Alliance.

The survey revealed that most patients had a strong interest in learning about marijuana during treatment and 74 percent wanted information from cancer care providers. Sixty-six percent had used marijuana in the past, 24 percent used in the last year, and 21 percent used in the last month. Most current users smoked or consumed marijuana primarily for physical symptoms (such as pain and nausea) or psychological reasons (such as coping with stress, depression, and insomnia).

The study reports that random analysis of patient urine samples showed that 14 percent had evidence of recent cannabis use, similar to the 18 percent of users who reported use within the past week.

Nearly all of the survey participants said they wanted information on marijuana from their doctors.  But most actually got their information from alternate sources.

Cancer patients desire but are not receiving information from their cancer doctors about marijuana use during their treatment, so many of them are seeking information from alternate non-scientific sources,” said Dr. Pergam.

He stressed that marijuana may be dangerous for some cancer patients or lead to unwanted side effects.

We hope that this study helps to open up the door for more studies aimed at evaluating the risks and benefits of marijuana in this population. This is important, because if we do not educate our patients about marijuana, they will continue to get their information elsewhere.”

Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, and over half the states in the U.S. have passed laws allowing for medical marijuana in some form. As availability and acceptance of marijuana use continue to increase, many cancer patients will have greater access to marijuana during their cancer treatment.

National Pain Report is interested in knowing if you have cancer, do you use marijuana to manage your symptoms?  Leave us a comment.