There have been some studies that show that CBD, alone or together with THC, may relieve pain, insomnia, or anxiety, but these studies were not specific to people with cancer. While no studies to date have shown that CBD eases these side effects specifically in people with cancer or people receiving cancer treatment, some people with cancer have reported benefits in taking CBD, such as helping with nausea, vomiting, depression, and other side effects. According to ASCO guidelines, your doctor may consider prescribing cannabinoids for chronic pain management if you live in a state where it is legal. However, ASCO guidelines state that there is not enough evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for preventing nausea and vomiting in people with cancer receiving radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
There is currently 1 CBD treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called Epidiolex, which is used to treat a rare and severe form of epilepsy in children. There are not currently any FDA-approved CBD medications for treating cancer or side effects of cancer treatments.
You may also be wondering if CBD is legal in your area. Some states allow the sale and possession of cannabis, including CBD and THC, for medical and recreational use. Others have stricter regulations, so state-by-state laws should always be learned before transporting CBD across state lines. Things are more complicated at the federal level. In 2018, the U.S. government recognized that hemp can be grown and manufactured legally as part of the Farm Act. Hemp can be used to make things like rope and clothing, in addition to CBD oil. In other words, hemp is no longer a controlled substance, which means it is not regulated by the government. This means that consumers have to evaluate the safety and quality of CBD products on their own. Some CBD, for example, may have much higher levels of THC than what is labeled.
Can CBD help people with cancer?
You may find stories online of people discussing the benefits of CBD as a cancer treatment or as relief for side effects. Please remember that such personal stories, while they may be well-meaning, are shared without scientific study and do not constitute evidence. The safety and efficacy of CBD for people with cancer still has to be proven in large, randomized, controlled clinical trials.
Yet there’s very little research around CBD and its use in treating people with cancer. Here’s what to know about what CBD is and what science currently shows about whether it’s safe and effective for people with cancer to use.
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of many chemicals found in the cannabis plant. It has been touted in some online forums as an alternative treatment, and even a cure, for many illnesses, including cancer. And, some people with cancer say that CBD has helped them as a complementary therapy in managing their symptoms and side effects from standard cancer treatment.
There is much about CBD that is still unknown. It has largely gone unstudied because, until 2018, it was considered a schedule I drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A schedule I drug is a drug that has been declared illegal by the DEA because of safety concerns over its potential for abuse and because there is no accepted medical use for it. Then, in September 2018, the DEA updated CBD’s status to become a schedule V drug. Schedule V drugs have a lower potential for abuse and are deemed to have some medical use.
Weiss offers these cautions:
PBS NewsHour: “Is CBD legal? Here’s what you need to know, according to science.”
How CBD Is Used
Mathias Schmucki notes that there aren’t a lot of studies on the potential risks of CBD oil, so it’s not clear exactly what they might be. However, “CBD is usually well-tolerated,” Weiss says.
Mathias Schmucki has also found that talking to other people who currently have or previously had breast cancer is invaluable. A private Facebook group called Fighting Breast Cancer with Cannabis has been helpful in her own journey.
Mathias Schmucki says other options, like how the CBD is extracted or what the best delivery method is, are a matter of personal choice.
At the end of the first phase of the study, patients who wish to participate in the open-label extension phase will have the option to continue in the same treatment regimen. For the placebo group, patients will have the option to receive the active treatment during the 12-week open-label phase if the study physician feels it may potentially provide benefits. Similarly, the dose will be titrated up in the placebo group who wants to receive the active drug in the extension program.
This is a 6-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group design trial followed by an open-label extension phase of 12 weeks, to evaluate tolerability of medical cannabis oil to reduce chronic pain intensity.
Informed consent will be obtained by a Research Assistant.
After baseline documentation with standardized scales, patients will be randomized to one of two parallel groups:
Follow-up visits either in person or by phone will be at 1 week, 3 weeks and 6 weeks of treatment.
Consecutive adult patients between the ages of 18 and 75, male and female, with cancer pain, with an average weekly pain intensity score greater than 4 on the 11 points Numerical Rate Scale (NRS), will be prospectively recruited and invited to participate in this trial.
The open-label phase is 12 weeks long. For this open-label extension phase the follow-up visits will be done after 4 weeks and 12 weeks of treatment.