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Using Cannabis for "Chemo Brain"


Using Cannabis for "Chemo Brain" 

Using Cannabis for "Chemo Brain"

The University of Colorado Boulder has come out with some new research that shows that medical marijuana used to treat cancer not only reduces pain and insomnia but also improves the so-called "chemo brain." 

"Chemo brain" is a term used by cancer survivors to describe memory and thinking problems caused by chemotherapy. Other terms are "chemo fog" or "brain fog." 

Some symptoms may include:

  • General confusion 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Short attention span and memory problems 
  • Difficulty multitasking and learning new skills
  • It takes longer to complete daily tasks 
  • Difficulty with verbal and visual memory

The study is unique in that it looked at over-the-counter cannabis products rather than government-issued medicines containing cannabis. In addition, the researchers did not use synthetic marijuana. 

As expected, the researchers found that cancer patients had less pain and better sleep quality. But to their surprise, the patients had better cognitive abilities. In other words, cancer patients who use cannabis have less "chemo brain."


Treating "Chemo Brain" with Cannabis

Treating "Chemo Brain" with Cannabis

"It's hard to think when you're in a lot of pain," said Angela Bryan, the study's senior author. The study found "When patients' pain levels decreased after using cannabis, their cognitive performance improved." 

Surveys estimate that as many as 40 percent of cancer patients in the United States use marijuana to relieve symptoms

Although the study was small and further research is needed to determine long-term benefits, the results are promising. 

As noted earlier, unlike in other studies, patients purchased marijuana from local dispensaries. Often in research settings, marijuana is either government-provided or synthetic versions. 

Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, most marijuana research uses prescription products such as Dronabinol. Or weak government stains that are poorly sourced. 

Because this study allowed patients to buy their own fors of cannabis from a pharmacy of their choice, there was less standardization. However, offering patients options highlights aspects that researchers had never considered. 

Cancer patients bought cannabis from 18 brands for use in the "Chemo Brain" study. These include baked goods, tinctures, pills, chocolate, and gummies. The THC potency of products varies, with most containing varying proportions of THC and CBD

"What this tells us is that people are willing to try anything they think will work, but there's not a lot of data to guide them on what works best for what," Bryan said.


Method: Cannabis "Chemo Brain"

In the "chemo Brain" study, researchers used a Dodge Sprinter van as a "mobile lab." 

They used the van to visit each patient's home. Participants underwent physical and cognitive tests in the van and were reassessed at home after consuming cannabis. Two weeks later, the researchers ran more follow-up tests. 

Researchers have come to some conclusions about the "chemo brain" study of marijuana. What is clear is that cannabis relieves patients' pain while making them feel "high." The researchers concluded that the higher the THC levels, the higher the patients felt. 

But what surprised the authors of this cannabis for use in the "chemo brain" study were the long-term effects. 

While some claim that marijuana lowers your IQ, they appear to be basing this belief on unbiased research. 

Whenever we have conducted research in this area: the results have been positive for cognitive function. In fact, that's what the researchers found here. 

After two weeks of cannabis use, the researchers found improvements in pain management, sleep quality, and cognitive function. 

"We thought we might see some problems with cognitive function," Bryan said. People tend to associate marijuana and chemotherapy with impaired thinking. "But people felt like they're thinking more clearly. It was a surprise." 

The researchers took objective measures of cognitive function, including reaction time. They found that the more people's pain was reduced, the more their cognitive abilities improved. 

In other words, marijuana helps reduce "Chemo Brain." 


What is the future?

While larger controlled studies are welcome, this small study is very promising. While cannabis has been accused of impairing short-term thinking, it's clear that cannabis has long-term benefits for people suffering from acute pain. 

The study's lead author, herself a breast cancer survivor, hopes the research will continue. She worries that most patients are unaware of the effects of cannabis on the "chemo brain." Or other symptoms associated with chemotherapy are unknown. Doctors, too, are hesitant to prescribe. 

However, she has been able to use THC and CBD edible products for surgery and chemotherapy. Bryan said she did not take any opioids during her cancer treatment.