Your Patients Depend on Your Willingness to Learn About Cannabis Benefits, Harms, and Everything in Between
I’ve recently spoken to a few people in the mainstream medical field. When asked what I’m up to, I explain that I am an advocate for patients and people who choose to use cannabis in a therapeutic way. Their response — a dump truck worth of medical system indoctrination, complete with harms and concerns for these people who make such decisions. Many of these harms were based in outdated literature, or exceedingly old programming from years of inaccurate information and propaganda.
When I tell them that my patients are enjoying a reduction in symptoms and their quality of life has improved ten-fold, the response is more harms and concerns. Not a word I said was heard.
So here I am, taking to my Medium to express a burgeoning frustration I have with the mainstream medical field. If you are a health professional, please be willing to listen. No, cannabis is not a panacea. But it is helping millions and millions of people globally with an ever-growing list of chronic diseases and conditions. If you are a health professional and you’re not willing to learn anything beyond what the broken system force feeds you, then I dare you to question yourself — why did you choose your profession? And I remind you of your oath — Do No Harm.
Why this stance from a Registered Nurse? Because this movement is happening — people are increasingly turning to cannabis to treat symptoms, or to simply relax. They are choosing cannabis over alcohol and other substances. They are often making these decisions without adequate oversight from a health professional. And beyond this, they need your help and support because navigating this broken health care system is challenging enough.
Where’s the data? The research? The evidence? Here — thousands of studies for you in an easy, clickable link: PubMed.
How are you putting your patients at risk? So glad you asked:
You are putting your patients at risk by maintaining your ignorance about cannabis.
You are putting your patients at risk if you don’t let your patients be honest with you about their cannabis use by quickly labeling and judging them as an illicit substance user and/or abuser.
Patients who choose to use cannabis therapeutically may need you to help them modify their medication regimen, or talk to you about side effects.They may be concerned about a drug interaction, or may be interested in weaning off of a medication or two. Or they may need you to confer with their recommending physician to determine therapeutic use if they are enrolled in their state’s medical marijuana program. However, patients may actually skip the conversation if you only shovel the common harm-based rhetoric and propaganda at them. That’s not helpful. Yes, there are harms and risks. But there are also benefits.
One last thing to chew on — patients will likely move forward with their plan to use cannabis without your oversight if you do not promote an open dialogue with them about their cannabis use. So let’s consider the potential harms related to cannabis use and abuse for a second. Wouldn’t you feel horrible if you could have prevented an adverse outcome by being open to such discussions? As a nurse, I know I would!
We’re professionally, ethically, and legally responsible for staying up to date with the scientific literature and evidence. Yes, prohibition and the DEA Schedule I status of cannabis in this country prevents adequate research. So look into countries who are paving the way in this topic area – Israel, Spain, the United Kingdom to name a few. There is also tons of anecdotal evidence, which by the way, is REAL EVIDENCE. And should be treated as such.
Fellow health professionals, I implore you to learn about cannabis and cannabinoid therapeutics. Go to conferences, speak with cannabis-literate colleagues, read all of the literature, listen to your patients. Be the health professional that you set out to be. Trust me, doing the above is empowering and rewarding. If we all felt this way in our chosen health professions, then I have to believe that we would be a healthier society as a whole.