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Posted by: Dr. Michael Verbora

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Medical cannabis has become more popular in recent years. As more high-quality research emerges, more medical professionals have become curious about its medicinal uses. They’ve been more willing to allow their patients to try it as a treatment or management option.

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Nonetheless, even as the number of medical cannabis patients in Canada grows rapidly, doctors should still be cautious about authorizing medical cannabis. While many studies show promising results, the facts about what medical cannabis can truly treat are still up in the air. Long-term studies are needed to help determine the safety and any health effects of long-term medical cannabis use.

With these things in mind, here are a few precautions for doctors who are thinking about authorizing medical cannabis for some of their patients.


1. Medical Cannabis Research Is Still Preliminary

There are only a few conditions medical cannabis has been “proven” to treat in any kind of capacity. Chronic pain is the best-studied health issue, and even then, research is still ongoing. Almost any other condition must be marked with a question mark beside it.

However, early studies seem to indicate medical cannabis may be able to assist with the management or treatment of many conditions. These studies require more research to verify their results, and then deeper investigation to truly determine how medical cannabis can help people with conditions such as epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease.

Always keep this in mind, especially when you’re discussing medical cannabis with your patients. Many patients are very optimistic about medical cannabis and believe it might “cure” them or take away their symptoms altogether. Caution the patient and help them create realistic expectations for using medical cannabis.


2. It May Not Be Right for Everyone

Many patients report symptom improvements from using medical cannabis. That said, medical cannabis isn’t necessarily the right choice for every patient who asks about it. While you should strive to keep the option on the table if possible, also stress to patients that medical cannabis is just one of many options.

The patient may not have an eligible health condition. They may have mental health issues that put them at risk of negative effects when using medical cannabis. They may be pregnant and advised against medical cannabis.


3. Low Doses Can Be Effective

You don’t need to authorize high doses of medical cannabis for your patients. In fact, low doses can often be more effective. Follow the “start low, go slow” rule for any patient. This will help minimize adverse reactions and allow you and your patient to discover their optimal dose.

Keep in mind medical cannabis can be an incredibly personal treatment. Patients may need to experiment with both dosage and strain to find something that really works for them. This can be a long process. A patient with realistic expectations will be able to evaluate whether medical marijuana is right for them more quickly and easily.


4. You May Lack Knowledge

You don’t necessarily need to authorize medical cannabis for your patients if you’re not comfortable doing so. The number of factors surrounding it, including the different strains and dosages, can make it a difficult option to deal with.

You can still offer your patients the option of medical marijuana, even if you’re not entirely confident in your own knowledge or would prefer not to authorize it. You can refer patients to the knowledgeable healthcare professionals at a medical cannabis clinic. They can assess the patient and evaluate their case to make a decision about whether medical cannabis is the right treatment option.

Working together, you, your patient, and the professionals at a medical cannabis clinic can help your patient achieve better health.


why-more-patients-are-turning-to-cannabis-for-pain-relief

Dr. Michael Verbora

Michael earned an MBA from the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business in 2009 and an M.D. from Schulich School of Medicine at Western University in 2013, before entering a Family Practice residency at the University of Toronto. A member of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, Doctors for Responsible Access and the Canadian Pain Society, he has completed over 2,000 cannabinoid therapy consultations and has presented many talks in community and hospital settings while serving as student health physician at Seneca College and Medical Director, Canabo Medical Clinic.

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