Medical Marijuana and Multiple Myeloma

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on June 30, 2022
5 min read

Pot or weed that’s used to treat pain and other health problems is called medical marijuana. Some research suggests it might help you manage symptoms or medication side effects in multiple myeloma like pain and nausea.

While it’s illegal for any purpose in some parts of the United States, most states allow medical marijuana for helping control complications of cancers like this one.

Also known as the cannabis sativa plant, marijuana has active compounds called cannabinoids. More research is needed to explore their role in cancer treatment. But experts have heavily studied two:

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. You may know this as THC. It’s the chemical that causes you to feel “high” after using marijuana.

Cannabidiol. This chemical, known as CBD, won’t give you the “high” that THC does. But some people find it calms them and relieves their pain.

Both CBD and THC might help in multiple myeloma treatment. Here are some possible benefits of marijuana for this condition:

Pain control. Smoked or vaporized medical marijuana may help treat neuropathic pain, which is the pain that comes from damaged nerves. This can happen from multiple myeloma itself or from the treatments you have for it.

Nausea and vomiting. Medical marijuana may help you manage symptoms of multiple myeloma and its treatments. Smoking it can help control the nausea and vomiting that can happen with chemotherapy.

Experts have also found that people who use medical marijuana tend to use less pain medicine. This could be helpful if you have side effects from those medications.

Some other studies look at how CBD and THC can help with multiple myeloma. But the possible benefits aren’t yet proven to help humans with cancer:

Slows cancer growth. One study looked at cancer cells in a lab dish. Data showed that CBD might lower the rate at which cancer cells multiply, also called proliferation. But there’s no proof it can cure or control multiple myeloma or other cancers. More research is needed.

Helps with cancer drugs. Sometimes, your multiple myeloma may become resistant to certain drugs. This means that your medication may not work as well as it used to. In lab studies, researchers found that medical marijuana may help lower resistance to multiple myeloma drugs, but that hasn’t been tested in people. Bortezomib (Velcade), or “BTZ,” is a drug that treats multiple myeloma. Experts found that it controls your cancer more when you use it in combination with CBD. When they’re used together, they kill more cancer cells.

Similarly, some research suggests another multiple myeloma drug, called carfilzomib (Kyprolis), might work better with medical marijuana. Experts found this medication, when combined with a mix of CBD and THC, may work better than when it’s used alone.

More studies are looking at how cannabinoids can help treat multiple myeloma and other cancers. Talk to your doctor about whether medical marijuana is right for you.

Experts haven’t yet looked at how marijuana can help stop multiple myeloma cells in humans. They’ve only done studies in lab settings. And while there’s no proof marijuana can actually treat cancer, some studies show it might help with some symptoms common with cancer.

To get these benefits, you can consume medical marijuana in different ways. It comes in different forms. They include:

Edibles. You can eat or drink medical marijuana to help with multiple myeloma. It’s absorbed and processed by your liver. Then, your body creates a psychoactive chemical that affects your brain and shifts your mood. Marijuana edibles will usually take 30 to 60 minutes to work. But you might notice benefits sooner or later after you consume one.

Edibles come in many forms such as:

  • Drinks
  • Baked goods
  • Candies
  • Cooking oils

Inhaled forms. You can smoke or vaporize some kinds of medical marijuana. It enters your bloodstream and quickly goes to your brain. Its effects fade faster than edible types of medical marijuana. But you’ll feel the benefits sooner than with edibles.

States have different rules for medical marijuana. In the ones that allow it, you may be able to apply for a special card. You can usually get this through your doctor.

You can use that card to buy medical marijuana through a dispensary, a shop that sells medical marijuana. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor about dispensaries they recommend, and about the type of medical marijuana that’s best for you.

There are two forms of drugs based on marijuana compounds. They’ve been approved for medical use in the United States. They include:

Dronabinol (Marinol). This gel capsule contains THC. It can help ease the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

Nabilone (Cesamet). This lab-made cannabinoid acts similar to THC. You can take it by mouth. It’ll help with nausea and vomiting from multiple myeloma chemotherapy. You might use this if other drugs don’t work for you.

Researchers in the U.S. are studying another cannabinoid called nabiximols. It’s already available as a mouth spray in Canada and some parts of Europe. It’s made from THC and CBD, and it can help with pain from multiple myeloma.

Like any medication or treatment, it has risks. The most common ones with medical marijuana include:

Discomfort with feeling “high.” THC can make you feel a euphoric high. This can be unpleasant for some people. It could cause you to lose control of your movements, or to have dizziness, anxiety, or paranoia.

Harmful substances from smoke. If you smoke medical marijuana, your body will take in THC, cannabinoids, and harmful substances. These dangerous chemicals are similar to those found in tobacco smoke.

Different strains. The marijuana plant comes in different strains that have various levels of active compounds. This makes it hard to control how much you get in each dose. You may also feel different based on how deep and long you inhale marijuana (if you choose to smoke it).

If you eat medical marijuana, it can be hard to predict how it’ll affect you. Edible marijuana tends to affect each person differently.

You may want to talk to your doctor about whether medical marijuana can help your symptoms. If they think it can, ask if they can give you a prescription and directions for using it.