Many patients have a medical condition for which medical marijuana could be beneficial. However, they don’t know how to bring it up with their doctor for fear of repercussions or being dismissed.
To access medical marijuana, patients need to be certified with a qualifying condition.
For people with epilepsy, whose seizures are not adequately controlled by traditional pharmaceutical treatments or who cannot tolerate the side effects of those medications, medical marijuana can offer significant relief. For many, the seizures may stop entirely or significantly reduce in frequency.
The cannabis plant contains over 400 compounds, including THC and CBD, both of which have been demonstrated to have anti-seizure properties. Generally, the higher concentration of CBD (98 percent CBD to 2 percent THC) has been most effective in controlling seizure symptoms.
However, because there is no significant clinical trial data available on cannabis and seizure control, patients with the condition should discuss their options with their physician. Some physicians may choose not to recommend cannabis for the treatment of seizures, but others do and will certify eligible patients for medical marijuana. Patients with seizures that are not adequately controlled by their current therapies may wish to consider changing physicians if this is an option. This is especially true for those who want to pursue experimental therapies like cannabis, such as low-THC oil or CBD-only products.
Those suffering from pain from debilitating conditions like cancer or multiple sclerosis might qualify for the San Antonio medical marijuana program. Marijuana isn’t strong enough to replace opioids for surgery or broken bones, but it has proven effective as a pain reliever that isn’t addictive or deadly. It can also alleviate the twitching, jerking, and spasticity associated with spinal cord injury or disease by activating nerve receptors in the central nervous system.
Chronic pain is the most prevalent qualifying condition, accounting for more than half of patient-reported usage in states with registries. This type of pain is often described as “achy,” it can be categorized as either nociceptive or neuropathic. Nociceptive pain results from physical tissue damage and stimulates specialized brain regions to send pain signals to the rest of the body.
Neuropathy is caused by the death or dysfunction of nerve cells, and it can be a significant cause of pain in people with spinal cord injuries and other neurodegenerative diseases. Cannabis has been demonstrated to alleviate neuropathic pain by decreasing neurotransmitter release in response to painful stimuli.
Research has shown that cannabis can ease the symptoms of cancer, including pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. Patients who use cannabis also report a better quality of life.
However, there are many different types of cancer, and they respond differently to cannabis. It’s essential to find a doctor who can help you understand your symptoms and the risks and benefits of marijuana. It’s also essential to make sure your doctor knows what medications and supplements you are taking so they can tell you if it will interact with your other treatments.
To qualify for medical marijuana in a state that has legalized it, you need a physician to certify that you have one of the qualifying conditions. This is usually a clinician from oncology, primary care, or palliative medicine. It would help if you also visited a dispensary that specializes in medical marijuana and has a knowledgeable staff. In most states, these dispensaries will have labs that test their products to ensure they are safe and free of mold and heavy metals. They will also be able to provide you with information about the best type of cannabis for your condition.
Epilepsy is the most common medical marijuana condition, and research suggests that it may help reduce seizures in some people with this condition. However, evidence is limited, and safety concerns should be considered in this group of patients.
Medicinal cannabis should not be prescribed as a first-line treatment for this condition, and clinicians must carefully evaluate the benefits and risks in individual patients. The use of medicinal cannabis for this condition can increase the risk of adverse events, such as diarrhea and drowsiness, and may also affect the effectiveness of anti-epilepsy drugs. A patient’s or their carer’s primary aim must be symptom relief, and that reduction (if not cessation) of other medicines is achieved if possible.
The exhibit shows state registry data for qualifying conditions and total patient numbers as of 2016. The number of patients includes states with more than one requirement related to the doctor-patient relationship, physician training, supply chain, or similar issues.
While there is no cure for MS, medical marijuana can help relieve symptoms like pain, spasticity, and nausea. Patients can use it to get relief while they are undergoing other treatments, such as steroids and opioids.
Clinical trials show that non-smoked cannabis (such as oromucosal spray nabixiomol, oral dronabinol, and nabilone) modestly improves spasticity in people with MS.
Smoking cannabis can harm the lungs and increase the risk of heart attack or cancer, and it can also make some MS drugs, called disease-modifying therapies, work less well. Smoking can also lead to a worse quality of life in people with MS, and some studies suggest that it increases the rate at which people develop more symptoms or become disabled.