5 Tips on Getting Advice from Your Doctor about Medical Marijuana

5 Tips on Getting Advice from Your Doctor about Medical Marijuana
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If you have been living with chronic illness, chances are you have already considered using medical marijuana to relieve your symptoms or alleviate the side effects of your treatment. While research on the efficacy and safety of marijuana for treating diseases is ongoing, preliminary studies have shown that cannabis has therapeutic effects such as appetite improvement, reduction of muscle spasms and pain, and diminished vomiting and nausea. With this, the medical community has become more open to using marijuana to treat a wide range of conditions including chronic pain, sleep disorders, and Parkinson’s disease.

If you’re planning to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, it’s important to get a medical professional’s opinion first to determine how to best make this treatment option work for you. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to talk to your doctor about using weed to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Check Your State Rules

The state laws on marijuana legalization vary, but medical marijuana is currently legal in 36 states as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. In terms of recreational use, marijuana is legal in 21 states along with D.C., Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Under federal law, doctors cannot prescribe marijuana as they do with conventional medications since these products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, they can recommend the use of medical marijuana or any FDA-approved prescription cannabis medication.

A physician’s recommendation allows you to get a medical marijuana card that authorizes your use of the drug. Before getting your card, you would need to discuss your medical history with your doctor and undergo an exam. The conditions that qualify for marijuana treatment vary with each state, but the list often includes cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and multiple sclerosis. Typically, your state’s medical marijuana program determines how much you can purchase from a licensed marijuana dispensary for treatment purposes. It’s also worth noting that health insurance carriers don’t cover medical marijuana, so you need to be prepared to pay out of pocket.

That said, it pays to know what your state’s rules are regarding marijuana use, especially medical marijuana. To a degree, this will help you get an idea of whether obtaining state approval for medical marijuana is going to be plausible or not—and what other options you may want to pursue.

Open the Conversation to Alternative Treatments

It’s normal for patients to feel apprehensive about discussing marijuana use with a doctor, even if it’s for medicinal purposes. That said, you shouldn’t be afraid to broach the topic with your doctor despite the stigma that still lingers around the drug. To start, you can ask about medically approved alternative treatments and how they may help manage your condition. Feel free to discuss any authoritative studies, news reports, or anecdotes (“I have a friend…”) that vouch for the effectiveness of treatments such as medical marijuana to kick the conversation off.

Bring Up Any Other Existing Condition You May Have

Although preliminary studies have shown that marijuana has several health benefits, it’s also important to note that some people are not fit for continuous use of the drug. If you have a pre-existing kidney, liver, lung, or heart disease, it’s best to consider other treatment options to prevent potential complications from frequent use. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you need to be mindful of how marijuana might impact your baby’s development. In addition, you may need to check with your psychiatrist if you have a history of mental conditions such as schizophrenia, psychosis, and bipolar disorder.

Generally, it would be wise to bring up these conditions when discussing medical marijuana with your doctor. Using the drug might bring unfavorable side effects, and on top of that, it might not be ideal to mix marijuana with the medications you are regularly taking.

Take Note of Recommended Forms and Cannabis Strains

Marijuana comes in many forms, some of which may be more ideal for your condition than others. If your doctor is open to medical marijuana use, you can ask about their suggested dosages, method of consumption/administration, and THC-to-CBD ratio. Knowing these may give you an idea of how you should use the drug: ingested, applied topically, vaporized, smoked, or otherwise.

It’s also worth noting that different cannabis strains have different effects on your body. For example, cannabis sativa gives you that energizing high while the indica strain relaxes your mind and body. It may help to coordinate with your doctor as well as a reliable dispensary on what they recommend for you to get the effects that you want.

Be Prepared for When Your Doctor Is Not Open to It

Before going to your appointment, you should anticipate potential qualms from your doctor about marijuana use. There are many reasons why your doctor may be on the fence about recommending marijuana, from lack of knowledge on the subject to personal beliefs. If your doctor is not well-versed in medical marijuana but is considering this form of treatment, you may want to ask for a referral to another physician who has more expertise on the matter.

If your doctor is unsupportive of medical marijuana, you can still reach out to other doctors who are more open to its use. Organizations such as the American Medicinal Marijuana Association (AMMA) have the resources that may help you identify licensed practitioners who have the appropriate knowledge and experience. Of course, it’s also important to consider all other treatments for your condition and not rely on marijuana as a sole option.

Talking with Your Doctor Is the First Step

In recent years, we have seen marijuana transition from becoming a prohibited recreational drug to a legitimate treatment option recognized by the broader medical community. But before using the drug for medical reasons, it’s vital to get a professional’s opinion first to understand how the drug can benefit you or become a risk to your health. And if your physician is not yet open to such alternative forms of treatment, you don’t have to be afraid to ask for a second opinion. Ultimately, these conversations are necessary because they serve as the first step toward making your condition a lot more manageable and bearable.


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Asheley Rice

I am a pop culture and social media expert. Aside from writing about the latest news health, I also enjoy pop culture and Yoga. I have BA in American Cultural Studies and currently enrolled in a Mass-Media MA program. I like to spend my spring breaks volunteering overseas.

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