What Grands Need to Know About Getting Medical Cannabis Treatment
When I think about my grandparents in their elder years, I am struck by how they suffered needlessly. My mother’s mother was a creative soul plagued by worsening anxiety as she aged, and my mother’s father developed severe diabetes that led to vascular disease that made it unbearable to sit with his legs down. As a physician who has morphed into a cannabinoid specialist, I am sad that I was unable to help them the way I could now.
Cannabis, or more properly the cannabinoid medicines found in cannabis, could have helped them immensely. Cannabis often confuses people because of the vastly different illnesses it can help. Not to mention the decades of misinformation we have all been fed about its harms. Cannabis is a medicine like any other. It has benefits and risks. Our goal, you as patient and me as a physician, is to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks and side effects. Again, this is just like any other medicine.
Cannabis can be used to treat a wide range of symptoms: pain, insomnia, poor appetite, nausea, and vomiting (usually brought on by cancer chemo), and well as anxiety and depression. It can be helpful for diseases like ALS, MS, dementia, Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. The cannabis regimen that will work best depends on what is wrong and will have to be adjusted to your situation – just like any other medication.
However, we are now confronted with a new source of misinformation: the cannabis industry. This new industry is not yet appropriately regulated to ensure that patients are properly served. As a result, there are an ever-widening array of products that simply are not actually useful or medically appropriate, and the dispensary staff gives mountains of financially self-serving medical advice despite being unqualified to do so.
For just a few examples, we, physicians, do not recommend that you smoke cannabis since smoke is not particularly good for you. However, inhalation by vaporization of the cannabis flower (not oil) is safe and effective for some problems, but not for all. Other problems do better with oral cannabis in the form of edibles. The choice is based on the illness, not personal preference as suggested by the industry.
Similarly, in the industry, there is a lot of discussion about strains (all the different types of cannabis) but no scientific evidence that they make a difference. CBD is being pushed by this industry to make money and has become extraordinarily popular but has never been shown to be safe or effective for the things people use it for. In fact, CBD appears likely to cause liver damage!
As with most medicines, it turns out that dose and timing are the keys to success. This is a “less is more” situation. However, the industry views this as standing in the way of sales and is constantly pushing patients to use more. This is where the risk comes in.
How are we to sort through all the baloney and get to a regimen that is safe and effective? The answer is simple: ask your doctor. Many folks are concerned that their doctor will disapprove, but I have found most docs to be open to what helps their patients. It is true that many doctors are not familiar with the data and use of cannabis medicine, but they can help refer you to a cannabinoid specialist who is. It really is the cannabinoid physician’s responsibility to prescribe the right cannabis regimen for you and to provide follow-up care to adjust that regimen as needed. Again, just as we would expect in any other field of Medicine.
You and your physician should know about the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists. This is an evidence-driven non-profit dedicated to helping patients, like you, and educating physicians to know how and when to use this medication. Further, the ACS is focused on sound medical policy at the federal level to ensure that patients get the medical treatment that they need and that regulations are set up to aid their physicians in providing that care. You can learn more about the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists at their website cannaspecialists.org.