NIDA Acknowledges Medical Uses of Marijuana for Cancer Patients

By John Lavitt 04/20/15

The federal agency recently highlighted the benefits, and dangers, of using marijuana.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse has acknowledged that marijuana "might be useful as medicine" in an update of the DrugFacts section of their website. Given NIDA’s mission of researching and combating drug abuse, allowing that marijuana might have beneficial, as well as harmful, properties is a significant step.

On their website,, in the language under “How Might Cannabinoids Be Useful As Medicine,” the staff of the National Institute on Drug Abuse made the following addition:

“For instance, recent animal studies have shown that marijuana extracts may help kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others. Evidence from one cell culture study suggests that purified extracts from whole-plant marijuana can slow the growth of cancer cells from one of the most serious types of brain tumors. Research in mice showed that treatment with purified extracts of THC and CBD, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation (Scott, 2014).”

NIDA spokesperson Kathryn Kaplan informed a journalist from The Daily Beast that the changes to the factsheet do not necessarily reflect an overall policy shift by the agency:

“NIDA periodically updates its factsheets to reflect the most current research. The excerpt you referenced was from a study that was published in 2014 and we found it to be relevant information that was worth including on a recent update ... This is not a shift in language or stance, but rather part of NIDA’s effort to provide the most up to date information and research to the public.”

In the past, Dr. Nora D. Volkow has focused her personal efforts on publicizing the inherent dangers of cannabis. She highlighted the adverse effects of marijuana use in a published piece in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.