Updated on December 11, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Terminal illnesses make death even harder than usual. Many incurable conditions that result in death put the patient through severe symptoms in their advanced stages. Patients with terminal illnesses already go through enough stress knowing they’re going to die, let alone managing their symptoms.
So, to ensure the most comfortable end-of-life experience possible, doctors often prescribe medication to control those symptoms. However, they tend to use stronger medicine for more severe issues, and potent drugs come with more dangerous side effects than regular-strength medicine.
This leads us to an important question — how do we balance out the symptoms of terminal illnesses without causing too many negative side effects? We may have an answer in medical marijuana. It can address multiple health problems at the same time with fewer side effects than most pharmaceutical medication.
While not every terminal illness has the same symptoms, they have many that often overlap — and it just so happens that cannabis medicine can relieve most of them.
Many folks turn to medical marijuana for their pain management, including people with terminal illnesses. Most states with legalized medical marijuana allow the use of cannabis for pain relief. Since we have so much research on marijuana and pain, it’s easy to demonstrate its efficacy.
Doctors who turn to conventional medicine often prescribe painkillers for patients with pain. Unfortunately, any pain medication — even over-the-counter ones — can cause risky side effects. These side effects range from liver and kidney damage to addiction.
Patients who opt for medical marijuana for their pain often find they have similar or better relief with fewer drawbacks.
Knowing you have only a certain amount of time to live takes a severe emotional toll on a person. If you’re researching terminal illness for a friend or family member, put yourself in their shoes — can you imagine how it would feel to know you only have limited time left with your loved ones?
Terminal illness patients have a variety of reactions to their diagnosis. In some cases, the reaction turns into clinical depression or an anxiety disorder. The medication for these conditions take trial and error to ensure effective treatment and often have addictive properties.
When you use the right marijuana strain or cannabinoid, you can use cannabis as an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication at the same time. The right balance of cannabinoids can elevate your mood and calm you down.
Lethal conditions and their treatments often result in severe nausea and/or unwanted weight loss. Sometimes they work in tandem, with nausea causing the weight loss. Whether you have one or both of these issues, you have a harder time getting the proper nutrients to prolong your health.
Patients receive antiemetics for nausea and dietary changes for weight loss. But, both approaches take trial and error to get results. Medical marijuana can settle your stomach and stimulate your appetite — both will help you increase your food intake and stay nourished.
Many severe conditions wear you out and make it difficult to get that energy back. Fighting an illness puts a toll on your mind and body, causing fatigue. Some terminal diseases and treatments make it harder to fall asleep.
If you experience one or both issues, your physician may prescribe a stimulant for fatigue or a sedative for insomnia. Stimulants can make it difficult to sleep, while sedatives make it hard to stay awake during the day. Also, it’s easy to build a tolerance to these medications, making them unviable for long-term use.
A regimen of sativa and indica marijuana strains can tackle both issues at once if you react well to it — sativa energizes you and indica sedates you. So, you can take one or both to tailor your treatment to your situation.
For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Terminal Illness, check out our resources: