Oral delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and smoked marijuana (Cannabis sativa) are used to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). CINV results from chemotherapy with the release of the following neurotransmitters: dopamine, histamine, acetylcholine and serotonin. Nausea results in appetite loss and poor nutrition. Vomiting causes tooth problems, malnutrition and weight loss.
There are over 60 cannabinoids besides THC. Cannabinoid receptors are in the brain and in the immune system. “The absence of cannabinoid receptors in the lower brainstem makes the potential for lethal overdoses practically impossible,” according to Hall.
Dronabinol (marinol) is oral synthetic THC. The author reviewed 10 clinical trials comparing dronabinol and smoked marijuana to pharmaceuticals for prevention and control of CINV. The studies were done over the past 40 years. Oral THC and smoked marijuana were significantly better than placebo at relieving CINV, even at blood levels below 5 ng/ml. The result was significantly better at THC blood levels above 10 ng/ml. There seems to be no difference between the effects of THC and smoked marijuana.
Prochlorperazine (compazine) is a phenothiazide medication used for CINV. THC compared favorably with prochlorperazine in several studies. One study showed that prochlorperazine worked better for the chemotherapy which caused the most severe vomiting. One study combined dronabinol and prochlorperazine and got better results than did either treatment, alone. Ondansetron (zofran), a serotonin receptor antagonist, is used for CINV. THC and smoked marijuana compare favorably with ondansetron.
Smoking marijuana is unacceptable to many people. The side effects include poor coordination, poor concentration, sedation, dizziness, altered mood and paranoia.
CONCLUSION: The purpose of this article was to review articles written in English over the past 40 years concerning the ability of various forms of marijuana to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). Marijuana is more effective than placebo and is comparable to prochlorperazine and ondansetrone.
NOTE: Read about increased blood levels of melatonin resulting from smoking marijuana. Read nutritional advice for people with cancer by Dr. Donald Abrams, who studied marijuana smoking in patients with AIDS.
To read the author’s abstract of the article click on the link to the author’s title of the article above.