Pharmaceutical Drugs or Cannabis: The Best Treatment for Chemotherapy Related Nausea

Is it just enough to survive, or is quality of life important?

In 2013, doctors removed a cancerous section of Jeff Moroso’s intestine and started him on chemotherapy. Moroso says the chemo was unbearable even after intense mental preparation. Moroso and others like him say cannabis is the only anti-nausea medication that works and the only medication that increases appetite.

For Moroso, cannabis makes life liveable.

July 22, 2015, Jeff Moroso told Newsweek; “I felt real sick, incapable of doing anything except for lying there and trying to hang on.”

Doctors put Moroso on ondansetron (Zofran), prochlorperazine (Compazine)and lorazepam (Ativan) just to augment the harsh side effects of chemo. Compazine is intended to control nausea, but according to Moroso, does nothing to help him eat.

Moroso got a medical marijuana recommendation from his oncologist. His preferred method of ingestion was a cannabis-infused coffee. “I would get blasted on the stuff and be happy as a clam, no problems,”

He only took 5 milligrams of cannabis at a time, but he says it was enough to take away the nausea.

Dr. Donald Abrams is chief of hematology-oncology at San Francisco General Hospital and teaches at the University of California in San Francisco.

“A day doesn’t go by where I don’t see a cancer patient who has nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, pain, depression and insomnia, [Marijuana] is the only anti-nausea medicine that increases appetite.”

Patients like Moroso say there’s no other option. Dr. Abrams says,

“I could write six different prescriptions, all of which may interact with each other or the chemotherapy that the patient has been prescribed. Or I could just recommend trying one medicine.”

The purpose of medical marijuana is not just to cure but to utilize its palliative powers. Dr. Abrams believes there’s more to cannabis than forgetfulness.

“The reason we think we have this whole pathway of the receptors and the endocannabinoids is to get us to forget things, and particularly to get us to forget pain, he said. In addition, cannabinoids relieve symptoms of nausea because that’s also a physiological reaction stemming from the central nervous system.”

Dr. David Casarett, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, is focusing on palliative care.

“People are realizing that even when patients do well in terms of survival, there’s a lot of suffering along the way that needs to be addressed. For many patients, [marijuana] is an opportunity to take control over their disease and symptom management when they can’t get the relief they need from the health care system.”

Dr. Casarett is author of Stoned: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana.  In his book, Casarett never claims that cannabis is a “wonder drug” that cures all sickness- rather, he suggests isolating the scientific proof.

There are FDA-approved cannabis options for nausea. Dronabinol is FDA-approved for chemo nausea. Only recently has the US government backed off of medical marijuana patients in legal states.