In Canada, we are lucky enough to have had medical cannabis legalized since 2001. Currently, there are over 300,000 patients in Canada utilizing medical cannabis, with the number one growing demographic being seniors.
The dilemma: There is a lack of training for doctors to prescribe and understand medical cannabis (or even the endocannabinoid system) as it is not currently taught in medical school. While many physicians may be open to the idea of their patients trying it, they may not know enough about it to be willing or comfortable to prescribe it, give dosing advice, or strain recommendations to their patients along with ongoing support that is needed. This is why medical cannabis clinics came to be in Canada.
What Are My Options?
You may have a friend or family member who has been using medical cannabis and has been able to reduce some of their other existing medications; so you ask your physician if they think it’s a good fit for you.
You will want to research the uses of medical cannabis so that you can reassure your physician that you have done your reading. This will provide them with a sense of reassurance that you understand how it may help you, as well as the potential side effects. Physicians are used to patients coming to them with alternative treatment options they feel are better suited for themselves or their condition, so don’t be afraid to ask. With CBD being so popular in the healthcare industry these days, you probably aren’t the only one asking.
Discuss with your physician why you think medical cannabis can help you, and its limited side-effect profile compared to pharmaceuticals for similar conditions. You can also discuss what other conventional treatment options you have tried and how much your condition affects your day to day life; reassure them that the physicians at Apollo Cannabis Clinics help patients to avoid negative interactions between their existing medications and cannabis.
Here, we have an amazing list of resources to share with you. Apollo has conducted our own research surrounding medical cannabis, chronic pain, PTSD, and more. You can also utilize our search feature in the top right of our website to search for specific topics to learn more about your personal conditions.
How Can I Approach My Family Physician About Medical Cannabis?
Scenario 1: Your doctor is onboard and writes you a prescription for x grams per day. You take away the prescription without an understanding of where to order from (it can’t be picked up at a dispensary or pharmacy), and you don’t know how much to take.
While this is a great start to have such open communication with your physician, you may be left feeling confused when you go to fill your prescription or how to use your new medication. This leaves you hoping to find the right path by searching online or asking your friend.
As an alternative to this, when your doctor says he/she is onboard, you can say you have a medical cannabis clinic in mind that will help provide you with guidance and ongoing support with free appointments, and they will send the referring doctor a consult note. This will help keep your physician informed about your medical status, as well as provide them with confidence that you will receive the care you need to find success.
We offer information here that you can print out to share with your physician, which will give them a sense of confidence knowing you are in the hands of a specialty clinic and research centre. We also have a printable referral form that you can bring to your doctor, although you can self-refer if they’re not on board.
Scenario 2: Your doctor seems hesitant – not because he doesn’t believe it could help, but because he is unsure of how to prescribe or what advice to give you on how much and when to take it.
In accordance with the OMA, physicians must be able to “advise patients of the material risks and benefits, effects and interactions, material side-effects, contraindications, [and] precautions.”
In this scenario, you can bring your physician an informative printout and/or a referral form from Apollo. This will allow them to know that where you want to book your appointment is reputable and they can send a referral on your behalf if you so wish. By doing so, our team of healthcare professionals will be able to send your family physician a consult note after your appointment with Apollo so they remain in your circle of care.
Scenario 3: Your doctor is insistent on you avoiding cannabis because he says there isn’t enough evidence that it can help you.
Unfortunately, this still may be the case for some Canadians despite the growing research studies published around symptom relief and the reduction of unwanted side-effects from other medications. In this case, we are happy to see any patients with no referral. We feel all Canadians should have fair access to alternative medical options and we are here to offer free appointments, Canada wide. If your doctor does change their mind, we would be happy to send them a consult note afterward, but only if you wish so.
Why Might a Physician Say No to Prescribing You Medical Cannabis?
Lack of expertise
Despite medical cannabis being legalized in Canada for medical purposes in 2001, most physicians didn’t learn anything about the endocannabinoid system or the uses of medical cannabis in medical school. This is not to say the physician is not great at their job, but their expertise may be minimal when it comes to the process, uses, and dosages around prescribing medical cannabis. Even if a physician believes it could help, or is open to you trying it, they may be unsure themselves on how to prescribe it and even where you purchase your medicine afterward, so they’ll refer to the clinical experts at Apollo Cannabis Clinics.
Unfamiliar with the research
Evidence based research is very important in the medical community, and they may not be up to date on all of the insightful research that has been published in the last decade surrounding the uses of medical cannabis.
Unaware of Drug Interactions
Like all pharmaceutical medications, it is important for your physician to be aware of any drug interactions, including medical cannabis. Although medical cannabis can be used with many medications, there are a few medications that it is advised not to mix with medical cannabis or it is suggested to take them at different times of the day. The healthcare practitioners at Apollo are trained to provide patients with this information to help the avoid negative interactions.
Cannabis is a plant based medicine, not a pharmaceutical one
Physicians are used to prescribing a set mg dosage for pharmaceutical pills and sending patients on their way to the pharmacy. Medical cannabis can take more work to find the patient’s correct dose or strain, and many patients need help registering with a Licensed Producer which is where patients fill their prescription. As medical cannabis has over 150 active cannabinoids, it may seem intimidating when figuring out exactly what to prescribe for each condition and person.
Be sure to do your research and learn how medical cannabis may provide symptom relief for your condition. You can see a list of many common conditions we see in clinics here, including anxiety, arthritis, sleep issues, chronic pain, and many more. Our team works with hundreds of family physicians across Canada, and we are here to provide you with confidence and the information you need when deciding what is best for you.
If you are interested in speaking with a physician about how medical cannabis could help improve your quality of life, you can book your free virtual appointment here.