Many states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Even so, many patients still find themselves afraid or embarrassed to broach the subject with their health care provider.
For some patients, cannabis is a better alternative to traditional treatments. Some patients just want alternatives to opioids and benzodiazepines, especially after the opioid epidemic. Then there are some patients who are interested in this route because it helps with chronic conditions, cancer, and back pain.
State boards regulate the use of medical marijuana. The board approves or certifies the physicians who are eligible to recommend medical marijuana to their patients. For a patient to obtain medical marijuana, a physician must authorize it.
State boards also determine the health conditions that would qualify a patient for a medical marijuana card. For example, in Texas, medical conditions include epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, terminal cancer, autism, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral disease, and an incurable neurodegenerative disease.
This marijuana card and program dictate how much and how often a patient can purchase cannabis from a state-licensed medical dispensary. Keep in mind, medical marijuana is not covered by health insurance.
Be sure to check first to make sure medical marijuana is legal in your state. Then do everything you can to educate yourself on the subject before speaking with your doctor. The best way to talk to your doctor is to execute the conversation with questions. That way it opens up a two-way conversation.
Here are some questions you can ask to initiate a conversation with your doctor about medical marijuana.
- Would cannabis help my medical condition?
The hardest part of this discussion is breaking the ice to broach the subject. You can merely say that you were reading an article on cannabis and ask if it would be beneficial in your case.
- Is there a certain type of cannabis that is best for my medical condition?
Purchasing marijuana is a little more complicated than having a medical prescription filled. There are different strains of marijuana that relieve certain symptoms. Your doctor should be able to give you advice as to which one might be beneficial.
As a general rule, any physical condition that is pain-related or if you suffer from anxiety, the Indica strains seem to be more beneficial. Brain-related conditions seem to benefit more from the Sativa strains.
- What form of cannabis should I take?
There are several ways to take medical marijuana. Inhalation occurs from smoking or vaping. The lungs absorb the substance which is then transported to the bloodstream. Inhalation is often recommended for acute pain relief, psychological, and neurological symptoms. This takes effect quicker than any other form and has shorter effects.
Taking medical marijuana orally has the slowest onset of effects but lasts the longest. This form is good for maintaining symptom relief and severe pain. In this form the active ingredients undergo a transformation during digestion.
Another way to take medical marijuana is under the tongue. This has a fast onset with a long duration of effects.
Topical forms are another way to administer medical marijuana. This includes sprays, pain patches, and creams. This form has a fast onset of symptom relief with a moderate duration of effects.
There are also suppositories for rectal and vaginal use. Symptom relief is fast and duration is long with this form.
- How much should I take?
Dosages will vary based on your metabolism, weight, and experience. Doctors typically have you start with a small amount around 2 mg or less, wait an hour, and then go from there. You should always consult your physician as to how much to take and how much to start with.
- What side effects can I expect?
There are possible side effects from medical marijuana. Some of these include dizziness, increased heart rate, slow reaction times, increased appetite, impaired concentration & memory, and hallucinations. Your doctor should advise you on what side effects are commonly linked with each strain.
At the end of the appointment ask your doctor about a follow up to make sure they will be with you every step of the way to navigate the process. Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance and it has the potential to be addictive. The more cannabis is normalized as a medicine, the easier it will be to have open discussions with your doctor.