KEY POINTS

  • A study said marijuana can be helpful in treating neuropathic pain or pain caused by damaged nerves
  • Researchers also found that it can help ease nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy
  • But there is not enough evidence that marijuana can treat cancer-related symptoms or side effects brought about by chemotherapy

Marijuana had about 37.6 million users in the past year, making it the most commonly used illegal drug in the country. Marijuana—also called weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane and many other slang terms—is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa.

The use of marijuana (also known as cannabis) may have a wide range of health effects on the body and brain, including helping in easing some cancer symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The main active cannabinoid in marijuana is delta-9-THC. Cannabinoids are the active chemicals in marijuana that cause drug-like effects throughout the body, including the central nervous system and the immune system. Another active cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which relieves pain and lowers inflammation without causing the “high” of delta-9-THC.

Although studies so far have not proven that cannabinoids help control or treat cancer, a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said that marijuana can be helpful in treating neuropathic pain or pain caused by damaged nerves.

Studies of man-made forms of the chemicals found in the marijuana plant revealed that it can also help ease nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy, but to date, there is still not enough evidence to recommend the use of the drug to treat cancer-related symptoms or side effects brought about by chemotherapy.

"Although marijuana and cannabinoids have been studied with respect to managing side effects of cancer and cancer therapies, there are no ongoing clinical trials of marijuana or cannabinoids in treating cancer in people," the CDC star.

However, some studies have also found possible links between marijuana usage and some forms of cancer.

A study published in BMC Cancer revealed that researchers found "limited evidence" that current, frequent or chronic marijuana smoking can be associated with testicular cancer (non-seminoma-type).

Smoking marijuana also delivers substances, such as those also found in tobacco smoke, to users that are harmful to the lungs and cardiovascular system, according to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Meanwhile, the belief that marijuana is a "gateway drug" that leads one to try other drugs has caused a number of debates in the medical field. Although it is possible for one to get addicted to cannabis, a number of factors come into play that can affect the likelihood of someone abusing the substance, according to CDC. These include:

  • Family history
  • Peer pressure
  • Mental health issues
  • Drug availability
  • Socioeconomic status

In a tight referendum result, a narrow majority of New Zealanders voted against legalising recreational marijuana In a tight referendum result, a narrow majority of New Zealanders voted against legalising recreational marijuana Photo: AFP / Raul ARBOLEDA