How To Talk To Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis
Is Medical Cannabis Right for You?
Medical cannabis isn’t for everyone. Certainly, there are some clear contraindications for cannabinoid based treatments, but cannabis is continuing to gain a lot of traction in the patient community. In many cases, cannabis is becoming the preferred treatment option, especially in the chronic pain, headache, migraine and female health communities.
If you are interested in exploring whether medical cannabis is right for you, it is important to speak with your physician and examine the risks and benefits associated with this treatment in a collaborative way. Patient health outcomes are known to be higher when patients and physicians work together to establish the patient’s treatment plan and strategies for achieving individual health goals.
The first question to consider is whether medical cannabis is right for you, your condition and the symptoms you are experiencing.
Cannabis has an incredibly robust therapeutic profile and research shows that it can provide significant relief for various types of pain, inflammation, arthritis, difficulties sleeping, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, cancer and cancer treatment related symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
Many patients turn to cannabis because conventional therapies have proven ineffective, or because the side effects of traditional medications are unbearable. In the case of chronic pain and fibromyalgia patients, for example, cannabis is becoming the preferred alternative to opioid pain killers. Research shows that cannabis has a good safety profile, with no potential of overdose induced deaths and well-tolerated side effects. In addition, cannabis and cannabinoid therapy has the ability to enhance the effects of opioids, thereby allowing patients to reduce their dose gradually.
A subsequent question you may ask is whether cannabis has the potential to complement your current treatment plan or help you decrease the experience of side effects of some of your medications.
Do the Research
Prior to speaking with your physician, it is important to do your research. Your physician may not be familiar with cannabis and may not have had an opportunity to learn about it in medical school or through continuing education courses. Along with many other patients, you may find yourself teaching your physician about this alternative treatment option.
This is why it is important to take some references along with you to share with your physician. The links attached to the conditions above are a good starting point for talking to your physician about some of the medical research that is currently available. If you require additional guidance from an expert in the field, you can connect with a Patient Educator here.
In addition, because cannabis is currently available to patients as a result of federal regulations, it may be important for your physician to learn about the available avenues of access under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) federal regulations. Cannabis is currently the only treatment option where the patient is expected to interact directly with the manufacturer, a Health Canada Licensed Producer. If your physician is interested in learning more about their role under the current ACMPR, you can refer them to the Health Canada guidelines for health care practitioners found here.
Tips for Speaking With Your Physician
Because cannabis remains a potentially stigmatized topic in our society, it is important to engage in an open and informative discussion with your physician. Your role as a patient may be to educate your physician and to help lessen some of the stigma that currently exists.
One way to help lessen the stigma associated with cannabis is to talk to your physician about the non-psychoactive options for medicating with cannabis.
The cannabis plant is made up of over 500 compounds and contains 104 active cannabinoids. Of those 104 active cannabinoids, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well-known compound. Believed to be the primary cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive feeling, or “high”, THC is often the reason many individuals dismiss the therapeutic and medical applications of cannabis. However, as research shows, CBD is a powerful non-psychoactive cannabinoid which has a multitude of therapeutic benefits. In addition, it has the potential to mitigate the psychoactive effects of THC when used in conjunction with THC high strains.
Another commonly stigmatized aspect associated with cannabis is the issue of smoking. However, as more and more patients will attest, smoking has largely fallen out of favour in the patient community.
There are many ways to use your cannabis in order to better your health.
Cannabis patients today rely on oils, capsules, vaporizing and topical preparations to manage their health using cannabis. To learn more about the health benefits of each of these methods, see our post on this topic here.
In addition to talking to your physician about the non-psychoactive options of cannabis therapy and the different modes of administration, it is important to communicate your personal health goals. For many patients, cannabis has the potential to significantly improve their quality of life. If this is one of your health goals, it is important to frame your discussion of cannabis alongside your desire for an improved quality of life.
Seek Education and Guidance
The medical cannabis world can be confusing and difficult to navigate. For this reason, it is important to seek education and guidance. Reach out to the GrowWise Health Education and Research team with any cannabis related questions.
Some of the common questions patients ask are:
What is cannabis? How will it help my health condition? Is it safe? How do I use it? What is a “strain” and how do I choose the strain most appropriate for my condition? How do I access my medication? How do I determine the dose that’s right for me?
If you anticipate that your physician may have some similar questions, it is important to come prepared with some preliminary answers. For example, it is important to know that not all strains are created equal. There are currently hundreds of strains available to Canadian patients. However, not all strains are appropriate for every condition. For example, THC-high strains are available in indica dominant, sativa dominant and hybrid strains.
If you are wondering what strain, or combination of strains, would be most effective for your sleeping difficulties, it is important to speak with an experienced professional such as a GrowWise Health Patient Educator. In addition, it is important to remember that not all dosages are therapeutic. In order to find your optimal therapeutic dose, you will need to weigh the benefits and side-effects and evaluate the impact of the treatment overall. It is important that you do this alongside a healthcare professional.
Connect with a Cannabis Friendly Clinic and Connect with GrowWise Health
One of the biggest challenges patients continue to face is access.
Because so many physicians remain in the dark about the benefits of medical cannabis, you may be required to ask your physician for a referral to a clinic where you may be assessed by a physician experienced with cannabis therapy. When you and your physician are considering the referral clinic, it is important to remember that assessments services are covered by OHIP and that you should avoid any clinic that charges patients hefty fees to be seen by a doctor.
Our partner clinic, White Cedar Medical Cannabis Doctors provides patients with free-of-charge assessment services by physicians experienced with cannabis therapy. In an effort to promote greater access for patients, the GrowWise Health team helps patients connect with healthcare providers who can assess their candidacy for medical cannabis.
If you are interested in learning more about how GrowWise Patient Educators can help you meet your health goals, or to connect with a healthcare provider, please contact us here or fill out the form below.
GrowWise Health also provides free of charge ACMPR medical cannabis education services to patients for whom medical cannabis may be an appropriate treatment option.
GrowWise Health Patient Educators assist patients in selecting the strain(s) most appropriate for their condition and symptoms and provide guidance on dosing, safety and modes of administration. The GrowWise Health team provides medical cannabis patients with ongoing support to help improve their quality of life.
GrowWise Health Patient Educators provide services for patients in the Greater Toronto Area and across Ontario and Canada.
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