Medical Cannabis, also known as marijuana, has many misconceptions surrounding it. For decades its use had been banned. But over the past decade many countries have begun to legalize and regulate the use of medical cannabis. Health Canada, the department responsible for national public health, began regulating the Canadian medical cannabis industry in 2014. With the Canadian government planning to legalize marijuana by no later than July 2018 more information about medical cannabis and its benefits are needed to dispel long held misconceptions.
What is Medical Cannabis?
Medical cannabis comes from the plant Cannabis sativa. It contains over 80 active compounds, known as cannabinoids, with the two main ingredients being Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC affects the brain and can alter mood and consciousness and is useful for pain and sleep disorders. CBD does not affect the brain and is used for inflammation and epilepsy (seizure disorder). Medical cannabis is available in numerous strains with varying levels of THC and CBD. It can be taken by vaporizing dried cannabis or ingesting cannabis oil mixed with food or on its own. It can also be consumed in an edible form but can be potent, therefore it is important to know how much of a dose the edible product contains. Smoking cannabis is also an option but it can damage and irritate the lungs.
What Conditions can Medical Cannabis Help?
Based on current medical research being conducted worldwide, medical cannabis has been used for medical conditions such as: chronic pain, neuropathic pain, cancer pain, arthritis, muscle spasms, sleeping problems, nausea/vomiting due to cancer, epilepsy, post traumatic stress Disorder (PTSD), insomnia, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and pediatric epilepsy.
It should be noted that studies have shown that patients often decrease the amount of pain medications used as they are replace by medical cannabis. It also helps Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis patients regain their appetites. Medical cannabis should not be used in patients who:
- are allergic to cannabis or its smoke
- have serious liver, kidney, heart or lung disease
- have a personal or family history of serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, or bipolar disorder
- are pregnant, are planning to get pregnant, or are breast-feeding
- are men who wish to start a family
Though there are encouraging studies that have been conducted and currently being completed, there is still a lack of strong evidence or no evidence to support its use in many conditions such as headaches and migraines, weight gain in cancer and anorexia patients, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions mentioned earlier. More studies are needed to prove that medical cannabis is useful for these conditions. Also, medical cannabis does not have medical approval from Health Canada and the department has not endorsed the use of the product. It is important to point out that there is encouraging, positive evidence to support use in individuals with conditions such as chronic pain, neuropathic pain, cancer pain, and other conditions.
What are the Side Effects?
Medical Cannabis has both possible physical and mental side effects. Possible physical symptoms include: a fast or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, slow reaction times, and drowsiness. Possible mental side effects include: a strong feeling of happiness or well-being, short-term memory loss, trouble concentrating, confusion, and decreased or increased anxiety.
Since medical cannabis can affect concentration, the ability to think and make decisions, reaction time and coordination, it may affect your ability to drive a motor vehicle. Though federal/provincial regulations and road side tests for driving with cannabis in Canada are still in development, a police officer can still charge a driver with careless driving if it is evident that the driver is impaired by cannabis, including medical cannabis.
What is the Terra Health Network?
Terra Health Network (THN) is an all encompassing medical cannabis clinical support program designed to assist health care professionals and patients looking for medical cannabis treatment, education, and coverage. A key value to Terra Health Network is assisting patients in getting drug coverage for medical cannabis via their insurance plans. Launching in June 2017, they offer cannabis education to physicians and patients, while supporting partnering clinics with the best possible patient care to accompany the medical cannabis program.
THN helps physicians by educating them on the best way to assess and prescribe patients requiring medical cannabis treatment. They educate patients by way of counseling services offered by trained nurses and pharmacists. The partner clinics are staffed with physician specialists. Additionally, THN provides resources to Allied Health care professionals to help guide patients on appropriate medical use of cannabis.
Talk to your Health Care Professional
It is important to talk to your pharmacist or physician about medical cannabis and if it is the right option for you and your condition. They are a great resource that can guide you and educate you on medical cannabis, its uses, benefits, and side effects.
- Chirag, Dave. Brief on Medical Cannabis. Terra Health Network; May 2017.
- Chirag, Dave. THN Overview. Terra Health Network; May 2017.
- Chirag, Dave. Cannabis FAQ. Terra Health Network; May 2017.
- Medical Marijuana- US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. (2016)
- Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis and the cannaboids (2017, June 12). Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/medical-use-marijuana/information-medical-practitioners/information-health-care-professionals-cannabis-marihuana-marijuana-cannabinoids.html
This article was provided by the clinical pharmacy at Rx Infinity. Rx Infinity provides optimal and sustainable patient management solutions through customized programs, innovative technology and added value services that improve the overall patient experience; while helping payers and plan sponsors achieve sustainability in the management of drug plans expenditures.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.