Talking to Your Doctor About Cannabis

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With the introduction of licensed producers cannabis is garnering more and more attention as a medicinal option. With legalization on the horizon in Canada, not a day goes by without cannabis being in the media spotlight. Many people have been self-medicating with cannabis prior to formalized legal systems being in place. Many patients start using cannabis for social (“recreational”) reasons, but it can often transition to medicinal. Others start to use it because they hear from friends, colleagues or coworkers the benefits it has had on their condition. If cannabis is medicinal for you, or you are considering this as a treatment option, have an open conversation with your doctor.  Here are some tips on how to broach the often controversial subject of medical cannabis.

  1. Schedule an appointment with your physician and inform the secretary you may need 15-20 minutes to discuss medical cannabis. The physician will be able to pick this up in his/her schedule and prepare better for the visit. There will also be enough time that neither of you feel rushed if you ask for additional time prior to booking with your physician.
  2. Review your medical history prior to visiting your doctor. Write down what condition(s) cannabis is helping you with, explain what medications you have tried, and prepare a list of therapeutic interventions you have tried. Physicians get worried when patients rush to cannabis as a solution to their problems. They appreciate well thought out logic for using cannabis.
  3. Explain to your doctor your pattern of cannabis use. How often are you using it? What methods of consumption do you use (edibles, vaporized, smoked)? How long have you been using it? Address the benefits received (anxiety reduction, pain reduction) and importantly, link this to positive outcomes (ie. I use cannabis to help with my pain and it allows me to go shopping for groceries, or to exercise more often which is important to my health). Many physicians have biases and preconceived notions of cannabis users that are often false. Linking your health benefits to functional changes in your life helps doctors understand the benefits of cannabis.
  4. Ask your doctor if they are familiar with cannabis. Are they aware of different strains? Have they prescribed this in the past? What is their opinion or experience on this? Ask your doctor for their honest opinion on cannabis for your condition(s).

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