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Chemo Induced Nausea and Medicinal Cannabis

For cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, nausea and vomiting are extremely common, affecting an estimated 80% of patients.

As a result of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), patients may also experience a decreased appetite and a lower overall caloric intake. The management of CINV is important for patient health as the body needs energy from food and drink to support itself under the strain of chemotherapy.

Furthermore, as medical costs and the incidence of cancer continue to increase, the management of CINV becomes more important in order to reduce the economic burden to patients and the healthcare system. Poorly managed nausea and vomiting decrease the patient’s quality of life and may lead to disruptions in cancer treatments - putting more stress on both the patient and the healthcare system.

What are the symptoms of Chemotherapy induced Nausea & Vomiting?

There are three types of CINV:

  • Acute emesis: Usually begins within 1 - 2 hours of chemotherapy, peaking at the 4 - 6 hour point. 
  • Delayed emesis: Nausea which commences more than 24 hours after treatment
  • Anticipatory emesis: Nausea which occurs prior to treatment. Anticipatory emesis only effects patients who experienced significant CINV during previous treatment cycles. 

Serious complications from CINV include:

  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Oesophageal tears
  • Fractures
  • Wound dehiscence
  • Deterioration of physical condition
  • Deterioration of mental condition

How can medicinal cannabis help with Chemotherapy induced Nausea & Vomiting?

According to the results published in Annals of Oncology, a quarter of patients being administered medicinal cannabis experienced no vomiting and nausea during their chemotherapy treatment. Both active components cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) hinder serotonin release in the small intestine, resulting in nausea and vomiting relief during chemotherapy cycles.

Moreover, cannabinoids have been found to be more effective antiemetics than prochlorperazine, metoclopramide, chlorpromazine, thiethylperazine, haloperidol, domperidone, or alizapride.

Some of the cannabis products that have shown to be beneficial treatments to Chemotherapy induced Nausea & Vomiting sufferers include:

  • Nabiximols
  • Dronbinol
  • THC:CBD extracts
  • CBD extracts
  • Cannabis Sativa
  • Cannabis Indica

They can be consumed as an oil, vape liquid, sprays and wafers.

If you or a loved one are suffering from Chemotherapy induced Nausea & Vomiting and are considering medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment, please speak to your GP or to one of our SAS accredited doctors here.