Why don't Canadian doctors prescribe more marijuana?

Published Feb 20, 2019 02:11 p.m. ET

History was made in 1999 when the first two patients in Canada to obtain a medical marijuana prescription were granted permission and access to cannabis as a treatment option. In the year 2000 courts ruled that Canadians have the constitutional right to access marijuana as a medicine and in 2001 Canadian Medical Marijuana regulations granted full legal access to patients suffering from HIV aids and other illnesses. Since then society, in general, has changed its views. With Canadians pushing for new and improved legislation that eventually made medical marijuana easily accessible across the country. Since 2013 all Canadians with a medical license have had access to medical marijuana via commercial growers and small approved home growers.

Can any doctor prescribe marijuana?

How much weed do doctors prescribe? Any doctor or physician can prescribe marijuana if they provide a valid reason and that includes a walk-in doctor, family practitioner, chiropractor, eye doctor, osteopath, cancer specialist, surgeon, and any other kind of doctor you can think of.

Why don’t doctors prescribe marijuana?

Lack of Science - Even with a change in laws and society we still see doctors that are hesitant or downright against the idea of prescribing medical marijuana to their patients. Some of the reason for this is the lack of thorough long-term studies on the effects. There is very little scientific evidence to back up the medicinal use of cannabis. While there is plenty of valuable information in regard to positive results seen by those who have used it, they often aren’t considered reliable on their own.

No education on cannabis - Another reason for concern, at least for some doctors, is their lack of knowledge on specific benefits of treating individual conditions. Even if your family doctor is aware and accepts that cannabis has medicinal potential, they likely have no idea what amounts they should be prescribing and lack any education on individual strains making this treatment option feel like a guessing game. It is difficult for any doctor to recommend something they do not understand.

Individual bias - Though we like to hope that our family physician would keep any bias they may hold out of the office. Doctors are people too, their personal feelings about marijuana may be clouded. Older doctors will have grown up through the age of prohibition, and many firmly believe the propaganda that was taught as fact to them when they were children. You must remember; not long-ago people were being arrested for the possession of a small joint. To go from that to recommending it to someone is a huge leap that some aren’t ready or willing to take.

Not FDA approved - Unfortunately, the lack of studies done for legal and ethical reasons has left cannabis still unapproved for medicinal use. This does not mean it doesn’t have any purpose; it only shows that long-term use has yet to be documented and studied thoroughly enough for approval.

What doctors say about marijuana

Doctors for Marijuana

THC- THC is already used and prescribed in pill form to patients who suffer from a variety of conditions from epilepsy, cancer, chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression, GI issues, and more due to its proven effectiveness at managing pain and increasing appetite and quality of sleep. While you likely won’t ever meet a doctor that encourages smoking marijuana due to the fact smoke is a lung irritant, many doctors do recognize the potential of consuming it in other more controlled forms like pills and tinctures.

CBD- CBD has already shown its ability to act as an anti-inflammatory. What we don’t know is to what degree it is effective and how much is needed for a specific result. Since cannabis is a non-toxic, alternative doctors are more frequently recommending its use while nervously tiptoeing around what exact doses they should be giving.

Doctors against marijuana

THC - Doctors against marijuana will often refer to a study done on rodents and humans. The results of the survey implied that too much THC could have adverse effects including paranoia, psychosis, anxiety, and nausea. Since the average level of THC we see in cannabis has increased dramatically over time, some doctors believe this could present a risk to their patients, but the truth is the majority of people do not ingest THC in unreasonably high doses.

Link to study- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21462790

CBD - In this study, CBD was added to a clinical treatment study on the effectiveness of CBD treatment on children with an epileptic disorder. While at first glance the results showing patients suffering from diarrhea, and extreme fatigue may seem alarming. There is no direct evidence that proves those adverse effects were caused by CBD. In the second phase of that study, it was shown that CBD when used as an add-on treatment while patients still received regularly prescribed medications will inhibit the patient’s liver enzymes. This means that the cannabinoid CBD had the potential for negative reactions when given with medications rendering the traditional medicine almost useless.

Link to study- https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1611618

If you are considering using medical marijuana as an alternative treatment for a medical condition, then consider making an appointment with your family doctor. If you don’t have one or your doctor isn’t listening to your requests, then google “cannabis clinic near me” to find a doctor that can help. A medical license is beneficial for many reasons from access to high quality legally grown and regulated marijuana to opening up real conversations with your doctor. Choosing cannabis may assist you in ways you never thought possible without the use of often toxic pharmaceuticals and is easily accessible to anyone who can prove a need.

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