Drink, drugs and smoking – healthy?

Putting your life on hold can be frustrating, especially if you're used to going out and enjoying yourself. While it's important to keep doing the things you enjoy as much as you can, it's even more important to be careful about things that could potentially damage your health.


Drinking in moderation is generally fine. However, alcohol can interfere with some chemotherapy drugs so seek advice from health professionals about your specific treatment regime.

If you find it difficult to moderate your drinking during treatment, help and support is always on hand. If you’re drinking too much, it’s important that you are open and honest with your care team and ask someone you trust for help


You might have seen stories in the news or online about cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed and hash) being used with cancer and other illnesses.

It’s a commonly debated topic and there are many stories of the drug being used to treat the side effects of cancer, and even cure it. But the truth is there is no solid medical evidence to suggest this is true, as it has not been scientifically proven through controlled clinical trials.

There are also health risks with using it, especially alongside your treatment. Also, remember that possessing or supplying cannabis is illegal in the UK.

Legal products such as cannabis oil

Cannabis oil (products containing cannabidiol) is available to buy online. These products are not illegal because the chemical is taken from another plant called hemp.

However, the dosage in these products is so low that they are unlikely to have any effect. They can also be very expensive for the amount you receive. At worst, you could be scammed by false companies and receive nothing.

We would always recommend getting advice from your consultant or the pharmacist at your hospital about ‘over the counter’ medicines, alternative therapies or recreational drugs. You may not realise that some of these medicines can alter the effects of your cancer treatment. Your pharmacist can give you confidential advice about how medicines (including tablets, powders, sprays and creams) affect each other.

If you’d like to know more, Cancer Research UK’s Science Blog has clearly summed up research into cannabis and the evidence so far.


It’s no secret that smoking is bad for you. But for people who have had cancer, smoking is even more damaging, as treatment can make them more prone to respiratory infections or breathing difficulties.

As well as the obvious health benefits, cutting down or quitting could save you money. Plus you’ll also be helping the environment as forests are cut down in the tobacco farming process.

We know it’s tough to stop smoking but there is support if you’re ready to give it a try. If you simply can’t right now, make sure you talk honestly with your medical team about this. They should be able to give you advice and guidance.


Beliefs vary on whether vaping is better for you than smoking. So far, no scientific study has given any solid proof that vaping can have life-threatening consequences like smoking.

But the truth is no one is really sure of the long-term effects. There’s simply not enough data yet to properly research it. It’s important to talk to your medical team about vaping, especially if you’re going through treatment.

Published June 2017
Next review 2020

You might also want to read

Exercise, diet and vitamin supplements

Eating well and exercising can give you a boost. Here are some top tips.

Find out more
Donate to CLIC Sargent to support young lives against cancer

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies can be used alongside treatment. Here's what you need to know.

Find out more

Contacts for your emotions and mental health

Useful organisations, resources, apps and communities for emotional and mental health support.

Find out more
A teenager with cancer looks out of a window