Updated on January 30, 2019.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
If you feel uncomfortable or nervous about the prospect of discussing medical marijuana with your health provider, you can count yourself among the majority. The good news is that medical marijuana is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a novel concept. People have been using cannabis as a medical treatment for more than 3,000 years. Pot has gotten an undue bad rap over the years, between the war on drugs and the rise of drug-related crime, but you’ve probably noticed its reputation is quickly changing.
The first thing you need to know is that you should be as forthright and honest with your doctor as you can.Nobody knows your health history better than your primary care physician, and many health providers are already aware of the health benefits of marijuana for certain conditions. Try and remember the different medications you’ve taken and how they made you feel. If he or she properly understands how the suffering has affected your life, it’s more likely they will understand your request to try an alternative treatment route.
Also, be ready to describe exactly why you believe cannabis therapeutics can help alleviate the symptoms associated with your specific condition. As previously mentioned, it helps to be honest about how your suffering has affected your life.
Does your condition reduce your appetite? Do you experience constant pain? These are all relevant things to mention. In the event that your doctor is unfamiliar with medical marijuana prescribing practices, it doesn’t hurt to bring documentation and scientific evidence to back up your claim.
But really, the best way to have a good conversation with your doctor is always to ask the right questions. There’s absolutely nothing illegal or dubious about speaking with your physician about the prospects of obtaining a medical marijuana recommendation.
Here are some questions you should consider asking your physician about medical marijuana:
1. Is medical cannabis appropriate for my condition?
Your doctor is likely aware of the mainstream conditions for which medical marijuana has been approved, but different states have different rules for different conditions. This can be confusing, so definitely do your legal homework. Before speaking with your doctor about obtaining a medical marijuana prescription, make sure you’re up-to-date on your state’s specific requirements.
Conditions for which medical marijuana is commonly prescribed include:
2. What are the health risks associated with marijuana?
You should definitely do your research and even show up to your consultation bearing scientific evidence about the safety of medical marijuana consumption. Your doctor might also have additional information about your condition, specifically. He or she may also be able to translate scientific jargon into easy-to-consume layman’s terms, which benefits everybody and will hopefully make you feel more comfortable.
One reason medical marijuana remains controversial with some health providers is that the amount of cannabis contained in a plant really depends on how it was grown, stored and prepared. That can make it tough to predict the dosage, and too much THC can induce paranoia or panic attacks.
3. How should I consume medical marijuana?
Your doctor may have a recommendation concerning the vehicle by which you consume medical marijuana. There are five different ways patients tend to ingest their cannabis, and each comes with its own sets of pros and cons depending on your style:
Smoking. Probably the best-known way to consume medical marijuana, smoking is both inexpensive and easy. Of course, smoking comes with its own set of risks for your lungs.
Vaporizer. Using a vaporizer allows to you inhale cannabis without having to necessarily inhale smoke. All you have to do is put a small bit of the dried cannabis or cannabis extract into the device and inhale.
Edibles. Marijuana can be infused into butter or cooking oil for you to bake into different foods. Common edible foods include brownies, gummy bears and cookies. Although this is a popular — not to mention delicious — option, your doctor may warn you about the imprecise nature of baking your own edibles.
Using tinctures or sprays. A tincture is a concentrated form of cannabis that can be mixed with alcohol, glycerin or coconut oil extract. You can either spray the solution underneath your tongue or you can mix it with another beverage. One downside for this method is that is can be expensive.
Wearing a dermal patch. People who wear medical marijuana patches tend to put them on their ankle, wrist or foot. The dermal patch can provide relief for about eight hours.
4. Can I expect to continue functioning in my daily life normally?
Obviously, your goal in pursuing medical cannabis is to improve your quality of life — not to create any new barriers to normal daily function. If you follow your doctor’s specific recommendations for dosage and even timing, you can expect to feel relief from your symptoms.
When you use more marijuana than is prescribed, you may experience some of the same side effects experienced by people who use cannabis recreationally. These side effects can include:
If you follow your doctor’s orders, however, you have little need to fear this.
Stay strong and show resolve.Remember that it’s your right to decide what treatment routes are best for you, even if your doctor is ultimately too hesitant to oblige. And it’s possible that, despite your best efforts, your regular physician may refrain from writing a recommendation.
In this case, you should consider visiting a physician who is a medical cannabis specialist.