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Overview of Debilitating diseases requiring Hospice or palliative care

Hospice care is the assistance given to those whose illnesses cannot be cured and who are in the last stages of life. Hospice programs offer medical services, emotional support and spiritual resources with the goal of keeping a person comfortable. Services can be provided in a person’s own home or in a nursing home or hospice center.

Hospice care provides an array of services, including counseling and social support, meal preparation, errand running, bathing services, medical supplies, and basic medical care. The program eases the burden of care for both the patient and family members. Typically, a family member services as the primary caregiver, but most care is provided by a team made up of doctors, nurses, social workers, aides, counselors, clergy, and therapists. The hospice team develops an individually-tailored care plan.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, an estimated 1.6 to 1.7 million patients in the United States received hospice services in 2014. Over 40 percent of hospice patients in 2014 were aged 85 years or older.

When a person is under hospice care, the focus of medical care is on pain and symptom control, rather than attempting to cure. Medications and basic services are provided to manage symptoms and access to a member of the hospice team is available 24 hours a day to help the person under care pass away pain-free and comfortably.

Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Debilitating diseases requiring Hospice or palliative care

Cannabis can help manage the pain, anxiety, spasms, nausea, and appetite and sleep problems that commonly affect those under hospice care.

Research has established cannabis effective for reducing pain. The two major cannabinoids found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have demonstrated efficacy at lowering pain levels that had previously shown refractory to traditional pain-relieving methods3. Studies have also shown medical cannabis offers significant improvements in muscle spasticity, thereby offering relief1,2.

CBD has also shown to lower anxiety and stress levels, indicating it could be beneficial for emotional health in those under hospice care6. Studies have also found CBD to reduce cognitive impairment and discomfort when a person is placed in a stressful situation4.

Those under hospice care can struggle with the desire to eat, but studies have found that THC can significantly stimulate appetite10. Both THC and CBD have shown efficacy and regulating nausea and vomiting13. THC has also shown to improve the quality and duration of sleep, allowing patients to fall asleep faster and wake up fewer times throughout the night5,7.



  1. Baker, D., Pryce, G., Croxford, J.L., Brown, P., Pertwee, R.G., Huffman, J.W., and Layward, L. (2000, March 2). Cannabinoids control spasticity and tremor in a multiple sclerosis model. Nature, 404(6773), 84-7. Retrieved from

  2. Borgelt, L.M., Franson, K.L., Nussbaum, A.M., and Wang, G.S. (2013, February). The pharmacologic and clinical effects of medical cannabis. Pharmacotherapy, 33(2), 195-209. Retrieved from

  3. Baron, E.P. (2015, June). Comprehensive Review of Medicinal Marijuana, Cannabinoids, and Therapeutic Implications in Medicine and Headache: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been… Headache, 55(6), 885-916. Retrieved from

  4. Bergamaschi, M.M., Queiroz, R.H.C., Chagas, M.H.N., de Oliveira, D.C.G., De Martinis, B.S., Kapczinski, F., Quevedo, J., Roesler, R., Schroeder, N., Nardi, A.E., Martin-Santos, R., Hallak, J.E., Zuardi, A.W., and Crippa, J.A.S. (2011). Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36(6), 1219–1226. Retrieved from

  5. Cousens, K., and DiMascio, A. (1973). (−)δ9 THC as an hypnotic. Psychopharmacologia, 33, 355-364. Retrieved from

  6. de Mello Schier, A.R., de Oliveira Ribeiro, N.P., Coutinho, D.S., Machado, S., Arias-Carrion, O., Crippa, J.A., Zuardi, A.W., Nardi, A.E., and Silva, A.C. (2014). Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets, 13(6), 953-60. Retrieved from

  7. Gorelick, D.A., Goodwin, R.S., Schwilke, E., Schroeder, J.R., Schwope, D.M., Kelly, D.L., Ortemann-Renon, C., Bonnett, D., and Huestis, M.A. (2013, September-October). Around-the-clock oral THC effects on sleep in male chronic daily cannabis smokers. The American Journal on Addictions, 22(5), 510-514. Retrieved from

  8. Hospice care. (2016, February 6). MedlinePlus. Retrieved from

  9. Hospice Care – Topic Overview. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved from

  10. Jatoi, A., Windschitl, H.E., Loprinzi, C.L., Sloan, J.A., Dakhil, SR., Mailliard, J.A., Pundaleeka, S., Kardinal, C.G., Fitch, T.R., Krook, J.E., Novotny, P.J., and Christensen, B. (2002). Dronabinol versus megestrol acetate versus combination therapy for cancer-associated anorexia: a North Central Cancer Treatment Group study. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 20(2), 567-73. Retrieved from

  11. Jensen, B., Chen, J., Furnish, T., and Wallace, M. (2015, October). Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain: a Review of Basic Science and Clinical Evidence. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 19(10), 524. Retrieved from

  12. NHPCO’s Facts and Figures – Hospice Care in America: 2015 Edition. (2015). National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Retrieved from

  13. Parker, L.A., Mechoulam, R., Schlievert, C., Abbott, L., Fudge, M.L., and Burton, P. (2003, March). Effects of cannabinoids on lithium-induced conditioned rejection reactions in a rat model of nausea. Psychopharmacology, 166(2), 156-62. Retrieved from

  14. Ware, M.A., Wang, T., Shapiro, S., and Collet, J.P. (2015, September 15). Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study (COMPASS). The Journal of Pain. Retrieved from

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