If you are reading this article, you may be considering medical cannabis. If you are thinking about talking to your doctor, here are some points to consider? There are all kinds of reasons your health care providers should be aware of your cannabis use.
- Possible drug interactions – top the list
- CBD and THC have the potential to interact with many medications, like:
- Blood thinners
- Even some cancer medicines
That said, marijuana has been safely used to treat a multitude of conditions ranging from arthritis, chronic pain, insomnia, and seizures. At WeedWell™, we strongly support a team-based approach to care and encourage all our clients to be fully transparent with their physicians about their medical and recreational cannabis use.
Why not talk to your Doctor?
Some patients find it challenging to start this discussion. The most common reason we hear is “my doctor doesn’t believe in cannabis.” Sadly, we have even heard of doctors threatening to fire their patients if they use medical cannabis. This is a very rare, unfortunate situation. Most doctors will be willing to work with you and would never consider terminating a patient relationship for this reason. For more information on this, click here.
Why your doctor may have difficulty with cannabis
Now we understand why some patients may be hesitant to discuss cannabis use with their doctors. So why do some doctors feel so strongly about the subject? It can be helpful to understand your doctors’ position.
One reason that doctors might be unwilling to recommend marijuana is that they never learned about cannabis in medical school. This makes sense as the endocannabinoid system was not even discovered until the 1990s.
But doctors do want to learn. A recent study of Canadian doctors identified knowledge gaps regarding medical cannabis. A knowledge gap is the difference between the doctor’s current knowledge and what the doctor would like to know. Knowledge gaps indicate that doctors want to learn.
Some doctors may have trouble supporting the use of weed because research is still needed.
- Current evidence is not of the highest scientific quality
- Doctors want high-quality evidence for the treatments they prescribe
- There is stronger evidence for many other medications
The good news is that with legalization, more and more studies are being done. There is new evidence daily for the safety and effectiveness of cannabis.
Despite concerns about the quality of evidence, many medications are prescribed with little evidence to support their use in certain conditions. Doctors often step “outside the box” and use medicines based on lower quality evidence or their own experience. So why is cannabis different?
This leads us to the final reason why some doctors find it hard to prescribe cannabis. Stigma.
The U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970 listed pot as having “no acceptable medical use.” Although the political and social reasons are beyond the scope of this article, cannabis use became associated with a great deal of negative imagery. This persists in the minds of many people, doctors included.
How to talk to your doctor about medical cannabis
Now we understand some reasons why our doctors may be hesitant to support medical cannabis use. So, how best to approach the subject?
- be transparent
If you have tried cannabis for your medical condition and found it helpful, share this experience with your doctor. Try something like this.
“I’m wondering if I can talk to you about something that has helped me with my condition?”
An approach like this is relatively non-threatening, and your doctor will likely want to hear more. Tell your doctor about things you have tried that had side effects or were not helpful. Finally, explain to your doctor how you came about trying cannabis for your medical problem and how it has helped.
“This is how my attitude turned around completely. Prior to my first patient sharing with me how cannabis had helped them, I did not believe it had any medical benefits at all. Now I know otherwise.”
Mark Churman, M.D., C.C.F.P.
Doctors need to hear stories like this from their patients. You have the power to change your doctor’s opinion by sharing your own experience.
For those of you who have never used cannabis, it is also important to share with your doctors the treatments you have tried and how you came to consider cannabis for your condition. Maybe you have a friend or a loved one with a similar problem that has found success? Perhaps you read an article about how cannabis could be helpful. But remember, the more scientific it is, the more likely your doctor will be to accept this as legitimate.
If it is natural it must be safe…
One thing we often hear at WeedWell™, is that patients want something that is “natural” because it is safer or gentler. This is a statement that your doctor may be unlikely to support. Tobacco, cocaine, alcohol, and opium are all “natural” substances. Although there are many safe, and gentle natural products, to your doctor, natural does not mean “safe”.
If all else fails. What now?
Finally, if you are not able to obtain the support you need, consider seeing a doctor who is familiar with CBD and THC. There is a growing number of physicians who understand the current state of treatments, evidence, dosing and interactions. Consider asking for communication between your cannabis doctor and your physician. This should include the assessments along with the treatment plan and a review of any potential medication interactions.
After you’ve had a chance to trial the medicine, follow up with your doctor. Let your physician know about any side effects. Tell him or her about how cannabis has helped or not.
More and more doctors hear from their patients about medical cannabis every day. As a result, many doctors are developing an interest in learning more. Please help your doctor, as my patients helped me, and share your story.
Mark Churman, M.D., C.C.F.P.
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