I have had a regular argument over the years with a family member about both the recreational use of pot and the use of pot and derived materials from pot. Many of the claims promoted by this family member surround its use in cancer. In fact, this person follows a group on Facebook called “Cannabis Cures Cancer.” Being a regular listener to scientifically-based podcasts, I was skeptical of the dramatic claims being made, as they seemed to be mostly anecdotal in origin. However, I thought I’d take a fresh look at the information to see where the science stands on cannabis.
In comparison to other treatments, the amount of information available discussing the science on this topic took a bit more digging. There are some preliminary studies for a wide variety of conditions, but no large scale studies or anything that would be close to market. To start, I looked over the information presented to me by this family member, which was a link to the National Cancer Institute at the NIH. I use the NIH website to find basic health information about medications I am taking, or to find out about treatments for minor injuries or illnesses, and find it to be a fairly trustworthy source.
However, this link makes me reevaluate that stance. Without any differentiation other than the web address, the entire topic falls under the umbrella of the NIH’s CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine) research. The only way to tell it falls here is in the web address itself; there is no disclosure on the page as such. The Science-Based Medicine blog does a great job covering why the NIH should not be promoting CAM. The problem I have lies with the lack of disclosure. The information in the article itself isn’t inaccurate, although the way it is written can be misleading.
One of the articles I did have in my stash of information is a recent blog from the Skeptical Raptor blog. This post does a great job summarizing the information being claimed about actually curing cancer. It actually uses published medical information, even linking to the abstracts in the NIH database. The article also addresses the above NIH National Cancer Institute page. Although some of the research into cannabis is interesting, it hasn’t progressed much beyond cell cultures and a couple of rat studies. The push-back I received using this article is because the “Skeptical Raptor” worked for the pharmaceutical industry, this is another attempt for “big pharma” to suppress the truth. The raptor does a great job addressing this:
…if cannabis or any of its components actually could show efficacy against any of the 200 or so cancers, Big Pharma would be all over it. Because, they would not be selling joints, they would be distilling the active ingredient, determining the exact dose, determining how to deliver it to the exact cancer site, funding clinical trials, filing documentation with the FDA, then getting it into physician’s hands. This is not an easy process, but it would be a profitable one if it worked. Big Pharma and the National Cancer Institute is looking at everything, and they ignore nothing for potential. If cannabis works (and it might), they are all over it. Big Pharma is providing a lot of the funding for it.
And he is right. A cure for cancer would be highly profitable. If it is one thing the conspiracy theorists and skeptics can agree on, it is that corporations are driven by profits. Making money in and of itself is not a sign of bad motives.