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Cannabis that contains high levels of THC can cause panic attacks, hallucinations and paranoia.

We need more research to know if cannabis or the chemicals in it can treat cancer.

Scientists also discovered that cannabinoids can:

How you have it

There has been a lot of interest into whether cannabinoids might be useful as a cancer treatment. The scientific research done so far has been laboratory research, with mixed results, so we do not know if cannabinoids can treat cancer in people.

CBD is a cannabinoid that may relieve pain, lower inflammation and decrease anxiety without the psychoactive ‘high’ effect of THC.

There are trials looking at whether Sativex can help with cancer pain that has not responded to other painkillers.

Cannabis has been used medicinally and recreationally for hundreds of years.

There’s still a lot to learn. So always let your health care team know if you are using CBD oil. That way, we can make sure nothing interacts adversely with your cancer treatments or other medications.

Have any CBD-oil derived products been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cancer, its symptoms, or the side effects caused by its treatment?

Third, the plant itself may have higher levels of THC than expected. This could be due to its environment, prolonged flowering periods or cross-contamination and pollination between male and female plants, resulting in offspring with higher THC content. This especially affects hemp plants, which should have less than 0.3% THC levels.

This is very important for cancer patients to understand, as many people think CBD oil is not a medicine. They think of it more as a vitamin or a supplement, so they might not let their doctors know they’re using it. Patients might not realize it can be potentially harmful. So, it’s very important to tell your doctor if you’re using CBD oil.

Have any products using CBD-oil been approved by the FDA to treat anything?

Does CBD oil have any side effects?

All drugs and dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA. But as long as CBD oil is not marketed as a medicine or a dietary supplement, producers can get around that policy. So right now, CBD oil is very unregulated. That means it’s hard to know how much CBD or THC is really in any given product. Certain hemp CBD products have been found to contain significantly less CBD or more THC than advertised.

Dr. Raghunathan: How CBD works is not fully understood, but it seems to work through a variety of pathways in the body that have different effects. For example, it seems to have an anti-inflammatory effect, which is helpful with pain. It also works on serotonin receptors, which helps with anxiety. Because CBD works in many ways, people should discuss it with a doctor. It is important to understand both the possible benefits and risks.

Dr. Raghunathan: It is possible that CBD could have a benefit with symptoms of anxiety, poor sleep, and pain. CBD has been studied a lot in the laboratory and in mice but far less in humans. Right now there are some studies that are evaluating CBD as a part of cancer treatment, but none of those have had significant results. The studies that do show a benefit with CBD are for specific epilepsy syndromes in children.

You and your MSK care team should make a joint decision on using cannabis.

What do we know about how CBD works?

Dr. Raghunathan: CBD is not psychoactive in the same way that marijuana is. It doesn’t act on the cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system, which is how THC works. However, it is possibly psychoactive because it works on serotonin receptors, and anything that affects mood is psychoactive. CBD has been studied in mice and seems to affect sleep-wake cycles. But CBD can be unexpectedly psychoactive and sedative because it’s not well-regulated. Studies have shown that some products that claim to be pure CBD actually have THC and other dangerous contaminants, such as opioids.

We asked Nirupa Raghunathan, an integrative medicine doctor at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and pharmacist Jason Hou, who manages MSK’s About Herbs database, to share what people with cancer should know before trying marijuana or its cousin, cannabidiol (CBD).

Dr. Hou: When CBD is taken by mouth, some amount is absorbed and becomes available in the blood. There are cannabinoid receptors throughout the human body, and when CBD binds to them, that can trigger biological effects. But the downstream effects are still unclear because currently, there are very few human data. Other edible products containing CBD are likely absorbed and metabolized in a similar manner. There is, however, limited absorption through the skin with topical CBD oil.

Dr. Raghunathan: The new law allows New Yorkers 21 and over to have up to three ounces of marijuana for recreational use. Using and selling marijuana are both legal, except in schools, workplaces, or in cars. The law also allows New Yorkers up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis products, including products containing CBD, which is one of many chemicals extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD is different from delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, which is another chemical extracted from the cannabis plant.