Bold New Frontiers: Alleviating Pain Through Medical Cannabis Has Become A Reality For Canadians
Pain Management A growing body of evidence on the use of medical cannabis has confirmed that it is a safe, viable option for alleviating the pain symptoms associated with a wide range of chronic and terminal conditions.
Health benefits for patients
Thousands of Canadians are discovering its benefits, as facilitated by physicians and licensed producers across the country. As awareness and understanding increases, stereotypes about cannabis are fading as we learn the facts about its medicinal properties.
“Our patients are using cannabis to help manage the symptoms of 168 different medical conditions, of which pain is a factor in 57 percent of cases," says Brent Zettl, President and CEO of CanniMed Ltd., one of the producers licensed by Health Canada. “Fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, neuropathic, and chronic pain are examples of the serious conditions our patients are managing with cannabis.”
Licensed producers are federally regulated to ensure safety and consistency of what it distributes directly to patients. Any licensed physician in Canada — including GPs, family doctors, and specialists — can complete the necessary documents to give patients legal access. Storefront operations selling marijuana and compassion clubs are illegal. They are not monitored by Health Canada — an important consideration for patients.
“Our patients are using cannabis to help manage the symptoms of 168 different medical conditions, of which pain is a factor in 57 percent of cases."
A safer alternative
“We’re at a tipping point happening in science and medicine,” says Dr. David Hepburn, a general practitioner based in Victoria, B.C. “Medical cannabis really works for a wide variety of patients with many types of pain. It can play a key role in their management.”
Dr. Hepburn admits to being a former skeptic, but a steady stream of anecdotal evidence from his patients about how cannabis helped them prompted him to investigate further. For patients that don’t like taking opiates or experienced negative side effects, he discovered that medical cannabis is an effective and safe alternative.
Like other medications, no single type of medical cannabis suits all. There are various types available — each with unique properties and benefits. To help find the right one, some licensed producers like CanniMed can help guide patients about strains and doses, thanks to on-staff pharmacists and knowledgeable customer service specialists.
Shedding the myths
As the use of medical marijuana becomes more widespread and accepted, continued public education is crucial. It’s important to put aside old misconceptions that come from what they understand about recreational use. They are neither relevant nor true when it comes marijuana’s medical applications.
One common myth is that you have to get high to be helped. You don’t. Doses are low and the availability of strains with low THC — the active ingredient know for psychoactivity — but elevated amounts of CBD — the non-psychoactive component — is proving beneficial for many patients. And, unlike opiates, the risk of addiction or death is extremely low. Medical cannabis does not have to be smoked to be effective. Vaporization is the preferred method of intake. Absorbed through the lungs, patients can get pain relief quickly. For those who cannot use vaporization, new edible oil forms will be available through licensed producers very soon.