How Medical Cannabis Can Help Palliative Care Patients

Each year, an estimated 40 million people are in need of palliative care (World Health Organization). It can be tremendously hard for a terminally ill patient and their loved ones but the aim of palliative care is to improve the quality of their life as much as possible. 

What Is Palliative Care?

Those diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness may require palliative care. Palliative care offers physical, emotional and practical support to those living with the condition, as well as their family (Marie Curie). Palliative care is sometimes called 'supportive care' as it aims to make sure you feel supported and comfortable, rather than cure the illness.

The majority of those in need of palliative care have chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. Many other conditions may require palliative care, including kidney failure, chronic liver disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and dementia. 

Medical Cannabis and Palliative Care

Pain and difficulty in breathing are two of the most frequent and serious symptoms experienced by patients in need of palliative care (World Health Organization).

Recent studies support the use of medical cannabis as a palliative care treatment. It has been found that medical cannabis is particularly effective for pain relief and symptom management. In one particular study, 85% of the patients reported symptom improvements following the use of medical cannabis. Nearly half reported a reduction in their pain, and just under half also reported decreasing their use of opioids.

Researchers in Thailand also examined the potential of medical cannabis for improving quality of life in cancer patients receiving palliative care. The authors compared quality of life outcomes and symptom management in patients who received standard medical treatment to those who were treated with medical cannabis. Results showed that those who received cannabis reported a higher quality of life than those who didn’t. Cannabis patients also reported improvement in cognitive functioning and breathing symptoms.

Medical cannabis can help with many of the symptoms that palliative care patients experience including pain, insomnia, nausea and anxiety.

How Does Medical Cannabis Help Pain?

There are two primary types of endocannabinoid receptors: cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptors type 2 (CB2). CB1 receptors are located in the central and peripheral nervous system, specifically in the centre of the brain involved in pain modulation. THC is a partial agonist at both CB1 and CB2 receptors and inhibits the release of glutamate, 5-hydroxytryptamine, and alters dopaminergic function, thereby affecting pain pathways. (Bains and Mukhdomi)

In other words, THC helps to reduce pain by altering the function of cannabinoid receptors and suppressing the release of pain signals.

How Does Medical Cannabis Help Anxiety?

Medical cannabis can increase the level of joy neurotransmitters, anandamide. In addition to elevating your moods, this change in body chemicals can soothe your nerves and muscles. (Open Access Government)

Are you a palliative care patient or do you have a loved on that is? Find out how Cantourage Clinic can help here.

Advice For Palliative Care Patients

Here at Cantourage Clinic, we strongly believe in a holistic approach to health. We truly understand that being diagnosed or living with a chronic illness can be a monumental challenge. It can be difficult to adjust to a new life but it's not impossible, and we are here to support you on your way. We always advise that treatment shouldn’t be solely focused on medication. Lifestyle changes are also hugely to consider alongside it. Try to keep an open mind with trying different strategies for your health and wellbeing until you find the one that works best for you. 

The following wellness practices and techniques may be helpful:

  • Maintaining a healthy mind is essential to your wellness as a whole. Take time out to focus specifically on your mental fitness and ensure you give yourself time for some peace and quiet in your daily life.

  • Try to maintain a healthy diet and sleep routine

  • Engage in regular movement – whether that be a structured workout or walking to the shops. Exercise is an effective and natural self-help treatment for stress, anxiety, and depression.

  • Communicate with loved ones and those around you to develop a sense of connection and support.

If you are a palliative care patient looking for further support, it is best to first speak with your doctor, nurse or healthcare team looking after you. There are also many great charities that you can reach out to for help such as Marie Curie and Sue Ryder. There is also a wonderful Marie Curie online community. Read more about coping with a terminal illness here.

To find out how we can help further at Cantourage Clinic, please feel free to head to our website and get in touch today. Be sure to sign up to our newsletter to receive occasional news and advice.

Cantourage Clinic offer specialist consultations for the following conditions.

- Pain

- Psychiatry

- Neurology

- Gastroenterological

- Oncology

- Palliative Care


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