Cannabis is a class B drug in the UK. This means that it is illegal to have it, sell it or buy it.
Researchers are looking into Sativex as a treatment for cancer related symptoms.
CBD oil, cannabis oil and hemp oil
A drug called dexanabinol which is a man made form of a chemical similar to that found in cannabis has been trialled in a phase 1 trial. This is an early trial that tries to work out whether or not the drug works in humans, what the correct dose is and what the side effects might be. The results are not available yet. You can read about the trial on our clinical trials database.
A cannabis based medicine, Nabilone, is a treatment for nausea and vomiting.
CBD is 1 of the hundreds of chemicals found in the flowering cannabis plant. CBD does not have the psychoactive, or mind-altering, effects of another chemical found in cannabis called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the chemical that causes people to experience a “high.” CBD, on the other hand, is being used by some to help ease pain, anxiety, and sleep issues.
To date, no large-scale studies have shown CBD to have benefits for the treatment of people with cancer. Most studies that have been done evaluating CBD as a cancer treatment were in mice or in human cells in the lab. For instance, there are some studies that have shown that CBD inhibits the growth of cancer cells in mice with lung cancer or colon cancer. Another study showed that CBD, together with THC, killed glioblastoma cancer cells in the lab. However, no studies have been conducted in people with cancer.
What is CBD?
It is also important to note that some studies have shown that CBD might interfere with how your body processes cancer drugs, called a drug interaction. This might make cancer treatments more toxic or make them less effective. More research is needed on these effects, too. For these reasons, always tell your oncologist if you’re thinking about using CBD before you take it.
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.
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.
CBD, as well as medical marijuana, must be studied in the same way all other FDA-approved drugs are, by conducting randomized trials, its effects on various age groups and populations, and comparisons to already approved drugs, Dr. Markman says. To date, he says, no studies have met the agency’s criteria or standards to win FDA approval, which Dr. Markman calls “the gold standard.” In order to do so, experts must determine that a drug’s benefits “outweigh the known risks for the intended use,” he says.
Danish researchers conducted a review of 22 clinical trials conducted over a 19-year span on the use of cannabis and CBD in adults. They concluded that, while CBD may have “therapeutic effects” on some social and psychiatric disorders, the studies showed “substantial risks of bias” and had varying “methodological weaknesses.”
CBD comes in many forms—creams, capsules, edibles, tinctures and oils, including a vaping oil. Unlike another key ingredient in the cannabis plant, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD does not cause users to feel high. CBD may be found in grocery stores, marijuana dispensaries, gas stations, pharmacies and health food stores. It can be smoked, vaped, drunk or eaten.
Cancer and CBD
While some anecdotal evidence has been publicly shared about CBD’s benefits for cancer patients, the scientific research is lacking. The situation causes a conundrum for doctors who treat cancer patients, says Maurie Markman, MD, President of Medicine & Science at Cancer Treatment Centers of America ® (CTCA).
The FDA acknowledges the “significant public interest in cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds,” but maintains there are “many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality” of CBD products. The agency is engaged in “ongoing efforts” to answer these questions, according to its website.
“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.”
CBD is thought to work by targeting cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) found mainly in the brain and other areas of the body. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid signaling system, which—while its role is not completely understood— is believed to help regulate various mental functions, including cognition, sleep, pain and mood. CBD may also help regulate the production of cortisol, a hormone that helps the body deal with stress.