I am going to be on a medical cannabis panel in a few weeks. The audience is going to be the public. I thought I would write a quick post on six points that every patient should know about medical cannabis. A couple of months ago, I wrote a post called Five Things You Should Know About Medical Cannabis which was for healthcare professionals. Hopefully this clears up some of the ‘smoke’ around medical cannabis.
1. Cannabis is Not a ‘Magic Bullet’
If you read many of the cannabis sites online, you will think that cannabis can be used for almost every disease. People will say that it can cure many conditions. I have even read that there is a conspiracy to prevent the real benefits from cannabis from getting out to the public.
In reality, most people take cannabis to help with some of their
symptoms such as pain, anxiety, sleep, nausea and muscle spasms. It makes them feel better by lowering these symptoms. What I like about cannabis, is it works well for people with a number of these symptoms. For example, a person with chronic pain and insomnia treated with cannabis can commonly see improvement in both his/her pain and sleep.
2. Medical Users Don’t Need to Get High
Many critics of medical cannabis think that everyone just wants to get high. Most medical users take only enough cannabis to lower symptoms and not enough to get high. If a medical user is always getting high, we will normally need to adjust the cannabis strain to get rid of this.
3. Cannabis Abuse is Less Than with Other Substances
One of the biggest criticisms of cannabis is that medical and recreational use will lead to a large number of cannabis addicts. Honestly, we don’t know how many people will have a problem when recreational cannabis is legalized in Canada. What we do know, is that 6.8% of Canadians who have used cannabis have reported a cannabis use disorder (also called an addiction to cannabis). This is lower than with other medications such as opioids.
Cannabis is also not linked to overdose deaths that we see with other drugs like opioids. What is very interesting is we have some early data showing that states that allowed medical cannabis have lower deaths from opioid overdoses.
4. Buy Your Cannabis Through a Licensed Producer
I know I am going to get some flack for this one. Let me say there are many good dispensaries, but there are also some not so great ones. Licensed producers in Canada have strict rules in the way they can treat cannabis and you can be very comfortable that the cannabis will match what is on the label. Many people using cannabis are not in perfect health, and the products from licensed producers are likely a better choice for people with health conditions.
5. Work with your Doctor and Other Healthcare Professionals
I am really worried about the stigma of cannabis use. I would tell every person that if you are using cannabis, whether you buy it illegally or get it through the medical system tell your doctor and pharmacist. We will want to have this on your chart and can caution you if you get a medication that can cause problems with cannabis.
6. Cannabis is Not for Everyone
So many people think that because cannabis is natural it is safe. There are some risks with using cannabis. This is a real concern in young people and those people with serious medical and mental health conditions. We usually have different treatment options for most of these people that could be safer.