Marijuana is one of those drugs that proponents genuinely seem to think is capable of anything. It’s hardly a mystery why. After all, anything that helps you chill out and relax at the end of a long day is a good thing in my book, and the struggle to legalise the drug has been hard-fought by those who believe it to be ultimately harmless. Despite all that, it’s clear that there are a number of health benefits that come hand-in-hand with moderate cannabis use, as well as a number of disadvantages.
Those in favour claim that cannabis can help with anxiety, improve creativity, vanquish Alzheimers and is ultimately far safer to use than alcohol. On the other hand, detractors claim that it leads to an increased heart rate, feelings of anxiety and paranoia, breathing and respiratory problems, and can negatively effect other, existing mental health problems.
It seems like everyone has a different opinion on the medical properties of this plant. I can’t think of another herb that gets this much press; can you? Nobody I know stays up all night discussing whether or not we should ban coriander, or whether thyme is capable of preventing stomach ulcers. Personally I think marijuana should be legalised, but I can’t imagine that the debate will be settled anytime soon.
However, this week scientists might well have discovered something that will finally and conclusively put the issue to rest. Apparently may cannabis actually be capable of destroying cancerous tumours. Has the long-disparaged weed managed to solve the biggest global health crisis in the first world?
Researchers at St George’s University of London have determined in a recent study that, when juxtaposed with traditional chemotherapy, cannabinoids act as an extremely useful catalyst for apoptosis. This means that cannabis is able to accelerate the benefits of chemotherapy, which kills off cancerous cells, while also meaning that a lower dose of chemo can be used employed. This would ultimately lower the total amount of side effects which would manifest in those going through treatment.
The report, entitled “Anticancer Mechanisms of Cannabinoids”, has since been published in the International Journal of Oncology. It explains that researchers paired different types of cannabinoids with typical leukemia chemotherapy drugs, such as cytarabine and vincristine. Researchers learned that by using certain cannabinoids in conjunction with chemo treatment, there was greater rate of apoptosis.
Author of the study Dr Wai Liu, stated: “We have shown for the first time that the order in which cannabinoids and chemotherapy are used is crucial in determining the overall effectiveness of this treatment. Studies such as ours serve to establish the best ways that they should be used to maximise a therapeutic effect.”
However, other cancer research organisations remain skeptical about the purported benefits. Anna Perman, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, stated “This research in cells doesn’t provide evidence that cannabinoids are safe or effective for patients. Researchers have been studying potential cancer-fighting chemicals found in cannabis for a while.”
She added, “But like any new treatment, these should only be used to treat patients once there’s evidence that they improve outcomes. This is not to say that cannabinoids have no future role in cancer treatment, and Cancer Research UK supports clinical trials to treat cancer with cannabinoid drugs. But as it stands, we still need proper trials to know if they are effective, for what types of cancer, and at what dose.”