The medical use of cannabis seems new. We often hear that it has not been studied
and proven to be safe or effective. More data needs to be collected. Long term risks
have not been evaluated. The way cannabis works is not completely understood.
Well, pilgrim, all of the above is true. It is also quite wrong. This is a good example of
how sorting out the wheat from the chaff in all the information available for medical
cannabis can be difficult...
True, cannabis has not been found to be safe and effective according to the way new medications are approved by the FDA. No surprise here, as most research in cannabis has been illegal. Just because medical cannabis does not have FDA approval as safe and effective doesn't mean it is dangerous and worthless.
Cannabis has been used by humans for about the last 4500 years, starting in China. Its use for a variety of conditions was described in the ancient book, The Herbal , still in use today by many practitioners there. Since then, throughout many cultures of the world, cannabis has been used medically as well as religiously and socially. It has only been deemed to have no medical use and to be a dangerous drug since 1970. The federal government seems to be ignoring millennia of experience claiming more data needs to be collected. Of course, there are few areas of medicine or science which don't need further study. I think we have sufficient experience with cannabis to say it is relatively safe and can be effective.
True, we really don't know exactly how cannabis works. We have extensive knowledge of receptors for cannabinoids in the body and the effects these have. But, that knowledge doesn't really explain how the interaction of the more than 400 chemicals in cannabis have the effects they do. We do know it works for many people for a variety of conditions and is relatively nontoxic. There are many drugs we use in western medicine we really don't understand. How does Tylenol relieve pain? Ummm- lots of theories, including one that involves the body’s own cannabinoid system, but we don't know. We do know it works and that it is a much more toxic drug to the body than cannabis. Tylenol is universally accepted and available everywhere.
So, you can see how there can be a lot of information out there on medical cannabis that may be the true, but not necessarily the whole truth. As a patient, you need to have an understanding of your disorders, the treatments prescribed by your physician, yourself and the way medical cannabis may help you. Only then can you make the right choices for the unique person you are.
Cannabis as a medicine seems quite new. With a majority of states now allowing its use, patients, many of their doctors, society at large and certainly to law enforcement and government are searching for information. The information available online is vast and often confusing. Much of it is incomplete, far too detailed and technical for most people to sort through, clever marketing or just plain wrong.
Medical cannabis patients are certified by a physician as having a qualifying condition. The patient is issued a card and then, too often is left to decide for themselves as to the best treatment. Dispensary employees are usually the cornerstone of giving patients advice on strains and how to use cannabis. Sometimes they are very good at giving recommendations. Sometimes, not so much.
Modern medicine treats disease with the drugs that are effective for the majority of patients, forgetting that we are all very different individuals. What is a good choice for one patient may be ineffective or cause side effects in another. Although most patients see some improvement in using cannabis, getting the best result is a bit more complicated...
I have seen patients without much knowledge or direction experience lukewarm results of medical marijuana. I have also seen those so-so results turn into remarkable improvement under the knowledgeable direction of a doctor that treats the individual patient using the correct combination/forms/amount of cannabis.
It is my hope to sift through all the noise, marketing, agenda driven studies, politics and stigmas encountered when one tries to be an informed medical cannabis patient. I want you to get the best result from medical cannabis you can.
Brian Nichol MD