Q. What can you tell me about using marijuana for someone dealing with colon cancer? I have a friend dealing with this, and I am wondering where to begin research to see if marijuana can help him. Purchasing medical marijuana in Texas could be a challenge. Do you have any suggestions about where to start?
A. In a survey conducted between 2016 and 2018, nearly 25% of patients with colorectal cancer in western Washington state reported using cannabis (Cancer Causes & Control, July 14). The reasons people gave included pain management, relaxation, help with sleep or appetite and control of nausea or vomiting.
Starting Sept. 1, people with cancer will be eligible to use medical marijuana in Texas. However, the psychoactive substance that makes people “high,” THC, is limited to 1%. That is significantly lower than the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) permitted in other states. Some states allow as much as 15% THC in medical marijuana.
More on marijuana: More than 1,000 Americans in a Yahoo/Marist poll worry more about prescribed opioids than medical marijuana. Can it help cancer patients? Americans are changing their attitudes about marijuana. In 2017, a Yahoo News and Marist poll of more than 1,000 adults found that two-thirds think opioids prescribed by a physician are more dangerous than medical marijuana.
The vast majority of the respondents believed that marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes. That includes people who have tried marijuana themselves and those who have never used it. Of the 1,122 people polled, 573 had tried marijuana at least once and 160 reported using it regularly.
Researchers are just starting to investigate the potential health benefits of marijuana. Cancer patients find it helpful in overcoming the side effects of chemotherapy. People with multiple sclerosis use cannabis for muscle spasms and neuropathic pain.
Q. I have been hearing through the grapevine that many people are using ivermectin both to prevent and treat COVID-19. What little credible information I could find about it says that it is designed to be used in animals, not humans. Apparently, it is dosed according to weight.
I also read that the studies that purportedly prove its value in humans have serious methodological flaws. Do you have any further information about using ivermectin in humans?
A. The ivermectin story is complicated and controversial. This drug was first introduced by Merck in 1981 to treat parasites in animals. It was later introduced to overcome river blindness (onchocerciasis) in humans. Ivermectin has saved the eyesight of millions of people in Africa. Ivermectin has also been prescribed off label to treat lice and scabies in children and adults.
Data on the use of ivermectin against COVID-19 are confusing. Some high-profile research papers have recently been retracted (Nature, Aug. 2). Until there are bigger and better clinical trials, we doubt that many physicians will prescribe ivermectin for COVID-19. Experts expect the results of ongoing trials by the end of the year.
Meantime, poison control centers are fielding questions from people who take animal doses of ivermectin. At least one person was hospitalized in Mississippi because of ivermectin toxicity.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website peoplespharmacy.com.
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