Tommy Chong Using Cannabis in Rectal Cancer Treatment

Canadian comedian, actor, writer, director, activist, and recent Dancing with the Stars contestant Tommy Chong is telling US Weekly that he has been diagnosed with rectal cancer.

“I’ve had some medical issues lately… I got diagnosed with rectal cancer…. I’m in treatment now.”

This is not Chong’s first time dealing with cancer. In 2012, the That 70’s Show alum was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate. During that episode, the vocal marijuana-legalization advocate used cannabis oil (as a suppository) to treat his cancer and  smoked marijuana to relieve some of his symptoms . He tells US Weekly he is using cannabis again this time:

“I’m using cannabis like crazy now, more so than ever before. I’m in treatment now. I’ve been — just the case either way, either I get healed or I don’t. But either way, I’m going to make sure I get a little edge off or put up.”

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis leaf isolated on white background

Cannabis , also known as marijuana, is a plant from Central Asia that is grown in many parts of the world today. The Cannabis plant produces a resin containing compounds called cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids are psychoactive (acting on the brain and changing mood or consciousness). In the United States, Cannabis is a controlled substance and has been classified as a Schedule I agent (a drug with increased potential for abuse and no known medical use).

By federal law, the use, sale, and possession of Cannabis (marijuana) is illegal in the United States. However, a growing number of states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana:

caption for marijuana laws

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are active chemicals in Cannabis that cause drug-like effects throughout the body, including the central nervous system and the immune system.he main active cannabinoid in Cannabis is delta-9-THC. Another active cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which may relieve pain and lower inflammation without causing the “high” of delta-9-THC.

Cannabinoids may be useful in treating the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment.

Other possible effects of cannabinoids include:

  • Anti-inflammatory activity.
  • Blocking cell growth.
  • Preventing the growth of blood vessels that supply tumors.
  • Antiviral activity.
  • Relieving muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis.

How is Cannabis administered?

Cannabis may be taken by mouth or may be inhaled. When taken by mouth (in baked products or as an herbal tea), the main psychoactive ingredient in Cannabis (delta-9-THC) is processed by the liver, making an additional psychoactive chemical.

When Cannabis is smoked and inhaled, cannabinoids quickly enter the bloodstream. The additional psychoactive chemical is produced in smaller amounts than when taken by mouth.

What research is being done on cannabinoids?

Studies in mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells.

Animal studies have also shown that cannabinoids can stimulate the appetite and increase food intake.

Cannabinoid receptors (molecules that bind cannabinoids) have been studied in the brain, spinal cord, and nerve endings throughout the body to understand their roles in pain relief.

Has any research been done in patients?

Although no clinical trials of Cannabis as a treatment for cancer in humans have been found in the CAM on PubMed database, there have been clinical trials for the use of cannabinoids to manage side effects of cancer and cancer therapies. These studies have looked at the effect of cannabinoids on nausea and vomiting, increasing appetite, pain relief and decreasing anxiety in cancer patients undergoing treatment. Cannabinoids did seem to have a beneficial effect in these studies.

Have any side effects or risks been reported from Cannabis and cannabinoids?

Adverse side effects of cannabinoids may include:

  • Rapid beating of the heart.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Slowed digestion and movement of food by the stomach and intestines.
  • Dizziness.
  • Depression.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Paranoia.

Because Cannabis smoke contains many of the same substances as tobacco smoke, there are concerns about how inhaled cannabis affects the lungs. A study of over 5,000 men and women without cancer over a period of 20 years found that smoking tobacco was linked with some loss of lung function but that occasional and low use of cannabis was not linked with loss of lung function.

Source: NCI

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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