Cannabis Stigma Fades as Patient Base Grows
Education and Advocacy Medical cannabis has become an established, viable treatment option causing a big culture shift among health care professionals. Read more to learn if it could be a solution for you or your patients.
A growing number of people are now looking at medical cannabis as a viable treatment option — in fact, according to Health Canada1, the number of patients registered with licensed cannabis producers in Canada jumped 54 percent, to 270,000, between April and December last year.
Though cannabis has been studied for decades, there is an ongoing debate about how safe it is and how well it works as a medicine. A growing consensus among researchers and health care professionals has found that it has therapeutic value.
Since it became legal for medical use in Canada in 2001, doctors have prescribed it for many conditions including, among others, chemotherapy-induced nausea, seizure disorders, muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and anxiety, as well as poor appetite and weight loss related to HIV and other illnesses.
But cannabis is complex. Some strains are rich in THC, a psychoactive compound, and are commonly used to treat chronic pain, depression, insomnia and other conditions. CBD-rich strains are used to treat those conditions and others, but without the mind-altering effects as this compound isn’t psychoactive.
One strain can affect two people differently, depending on biology, tolerance, dose and method of consumption. For that reason, and because cannabis interacts with other medications, it’s important to consult with a health care professional before using cannabis for a medical problem.
“Some strains of cannabis will make you sleepy and others will make you more awake. Cannabis is complicated — keep it simple” says Michael Nashat, President and CEO of TerrAscend, a biopharmaceutical and wellness cannabis company. “It’s critical to work with an educator, someone who is knowledgeable about various mechanisms, dosages, interactions and side effects.”
Popularity of medical cannabis grows
Health care professionals are concerned about the pending legalization of cannabis for recreational use. If cannabis is readily available at a retail outlet, they say, people might purchase it hoping to treat medical conditions — without expert guidance.
With that in mind, an increasing number of physicians are embracing companies such as TerrAscend. One of its affiliates, Solace Health, is a licensed producer that provides patients with medical cannabis products and accessories. Another subsidiary, Solace Health Network, is a clinical health care professional lead support program and cannabis education platform.
Nashat attributes his company’s success not just to a growing interest in medical cannabis among health care professionals, but also to a change in patients’ autonomy and choice.
He points to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal prohibition on physician-assisted dying because it violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as leading to a paradigm shift. Patients are now more forthright about asking for what they want and doctors are more inclined to respect their wishes.
“More than ever, physicians are now thinking, ‘How can I as a health care professional help my patients reach their goals?’” says Nashat. “It is a big culture shift.”