A recent study published in Exploration in Medicine, a team of researchers examine how cannabis can be used to mitigate what is commonly referred to as “chemo brain” in cancer patients, which is associated with cognitive issues and memory loss. This study holds the potential to help cancer patients recover from chemotherapy treatment easier than what is traditionally encountered.
“When you’re in a lot of pain, it’s hard to think,” said Dr. Angela Bryan, who is a cancer survivor and professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder, and a co-author on the study. “We found that when patients’ pain levels came down after using cannabis for a while, their cognition got better.”
This study is considered groundbreaking as it’s the first of its kind to examine how cannabis purchased at dispensaries compared to synthetic or government supplied cannabis could impact not only cancer symptoms but chemotherapy side-effects, as well. This is due to federal law preventing academic research with cannabis that isn’t government-issued or approved as a pharmaceutical product.
For the study, the researchers observed 25 cancer patients and their cannabis use over a period of two weeks. This started with a baseline examination of the patients, including sleep patterns, pain levels, and cognition. The patients were allowed to choose the cannabis edibles they consumed, and a follow-up was conducted after two weeks.
The study found that with the use of cannabis, cancer patients were observed to not only experience reduced pain, but they demonstrated improved cognition, as well.
“We thought we might see some problems with cognitive function,” said Dr. Bryan, who noted that both cannabis use and chemotherapy treatments have been previously connected with impaired thinking. “But people actually felt like they were thinking more clearly.”
This study is a personal one for Dr. Bryan, as she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 and knows the hardships of surgery and chemotherapy. Throughout her ordeal, Dr. Bryan started using cannabis-infused edibles to help alleviate and manage the pain. While she was not without pain during the process, she did not consume any opiates throughout her treatment.
“I was extremely lucky because I had some knowledge about this. Most patients don’t,” said Dr. Bryan. “Either they don’t know it’s an option or they’ve got well-meaning but potentially under-informed budtenders advising them.”
It is her wish that this study, and future studies, will help open doors so both doctors and patients can make better-informed decisions during cancer and the corresponding treatment.
Always, keep doing science & keep looking up!