Most physicians are aware of the growing body of literature about medical cannabis. As more research studies have been completed, a clearer picture of how cannabis can be used to treat and manage various health conditions is emerging.
Along with this growing body of literature has been growing interest in medical marijuana. Both patients and physicians may be interested, and more doctors are willing to authorize patients to use cannabis as part of their treatment.
Before you begin authorizing patients for cannabis, however, be sure you’re asking these six questions.
1. Why Are You Interested in Medical Cannabis?
Before you sign off on the paperwork, ask why the patient is interested in medical marijuana. While most patients will give you an answer like, “I’d like to try it,” you can begin to work out how the patient heard about medical marijuana and what they know about it.
Some patients will have done careful research. They may have read a news report about a recent study that said medical cannabis could help their condition. Others may be frustrated with other treatment options and want to try something new.
Assessing the patient’s level of knowledge about cannabis will assist you as you make the decision to authorize.
2. Have You Ever Been Diagnosed with a Mental Health Condition?
This is an important question to ask, especially if the patient has been referred to you by another practitioner.
The literature on medical cannabis and mental health is currently showing mixed results. Some patients seem to do well with medical marijuana. In others, however, it seems to trigger psychoactive symptoms or anxiety attacks.
For mental health, CBD and low doses of THC look promising, but high doses of THC could worsen mental health conditions. Further, a history of psychosis would be an absolute contraindication.
If the patient has a history of mental health issues, you may want to explore other options first.
3. Have You Ever Used Cannabis Before?
Some patients may not be willing to divulge this information, given that cannabis has been illegal in Canada for so long. Although its status is changing soon, most people will have used it illegally.
Nonetheless, it’s important to know if a patient has ever used cannabis, whether medicinally or not. Cannabis-naïve patients usually require lower doses to start, while patients who have used cannabis before may need higher doses.
It’s also important to note whether the patient has ever had problems with cannabis or severe side effects.
An honest answer to this question can help you determine the correct dosage.
4. Have You Ever Suffered Respiratory Problems?
If you’re the patient’s family doctor, you may know the answer to this question already. If the patient has an active condition, such as asthma or COPD, this may be marked on their file as well.
If this is your first time meeting with the patient or they’ve had respiratory problems in the past but not presently, you need to ask.
The reason for this is simple. Smoking is one common way of administering medical cannabis, although it isn’t recommended by doctors. People who have previously had respiratory problems should explore other methods of administering medical marijuana.
5. Have You Struggled with Substance Use or Dependence in the Past?
This may be another question patients don’t want to answer honestly, but you need an open and honest answer to it. Patients who have had substance dependencies or who have struggled with substance abuse may not be ideal candidates for medical marijuana.
6. What’s Your Budget?
Medical marijuana prices are currently high, and they’re set to go higher when the government begins taxing medical cannabis this fall. There’s also very little assistance available for patients right now.
Some producers will use compassion pricing. A few private insurance companies are beginning to offer coverage for cannabis, but a lack of provincial support may mean medical marijuana is unaffordable for some patients.
Knowing a patient’s budget could help you choose the right solution for them.
These are some of the most important questions you can ask a patient before you authorize medical cannabis.