It seems nearly everywhere you look these days someone is selling, pitching or endorsing CBD, the acronym for cannabidiol, one of the key ingredients in cannabis. Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks and Olivia Wilde are just a few celebrities to tout CBD as an elixir for conditions such as endometriosis, fibromyalgia, PTSD, anxiety, muscle tension and insomnia.
Cancer and CBD
Available only by prescription, Epidiolex contains a highly purified form of CBD, the FDA says. Safety risks include possible liver damage and the potential for adverse reactions when the drug is taken with other medications—potential hazards that the FDA requires be disclosed on its label.
“There are individuals who clearly say it works, groups and medical societies, such as ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology), that say it may be of value,” Dr. Markman says. “States say it’s legal, and the FDA says it’s looking at it. But the problem is we do not have clinical trials conducted by the FDA to show its safety and efficacy relative to drugs that are already out there. At a patient and doctor level, it’s a very difficult situation. Doctors need scientific evidence, not anecdotal evidence, that something is safe and effective.”
But just because CBD products made from hemp are sold everywhere, in all kinds of products, and their legal restrictions have been loosened, you shouldn’t assume they are safe, effective, or even legal where you live (some state laws still consider hemp CBD illegal).
In modern times, marijuana has generally been viewed as a recreational drug. But there is growing interest in its medical uses. The terms “medical marijuana,” “medical cannabis,” “medical hemp,” or “medical CBD” refer to the use of products made from the cannabis plant to treat certain health conditions.
Different forms of cannabis contain different amounts or combinations of cannabinoids. Marijuana contains enough THC to cause a high (more than 0.3%) and varying amounts of CBD. Hemp contains mostly CBD and only trace amounts of THC, which does not cause a high.
Is medical cannabis legal?
If you decide that you’re interested in trying medical cannabis to treat your breast cancer symptoms or treatment side effects, here are some things to consider before you do:
But again, it’s important to talk to your doctor about using cannabis products, especially during cancer treatment, to make sure it’s a safe option for you. If you find that your doctor is not knowledgeable or experienced with cannabis, you may want to seek advice from an oncologist who participates in your state or country’s medical cannabis program.
What are cannabinoids?
Information on cannabis side effects is limited because research on medical cannabis in people with cancer is limited. Side effects are also likely to vary depending on the dose you take and the amounts and combinations of THC and CBD in each product.
Medical grade CBD products from a medical marijuana dispensary or an independent pharmacy are likely a safer and more effective option, because you can ask for a certificate of analysis that tells you about the ingredients, dose, and if there are contaminants such as mold, heavy metals, or pesticides.