Question 1: Can cannabis help with pain?
Yes, cannabis can help with pain. Cannabis has been shown, to use the words of the National Academy of Science, to incontrovertibly help with pain. Types of pain vary and the approach to treatment varies based on those differences. Managing pain is something that needs to be done in a careful and thoughtful manner.
Question 2: Can cannabis help with anxiety, depression and/or PTSD?
Yes, cannabis can help with anxiety, depression, or PTSD. There are fewer data on this subject but we have a pretty good sense at this point that anxiety and depression, as well as PTSD, can be addressed with cannabis. It’s an area where we have science that shows that being cautious and thoughtful about the approach is important – and things can go wrong if not used correctly. For example, at higher doses cannabis can be counterproductive and make these symptoms worse.
Question 3: Can cannabis help with sleep?
Of the many things cannabis help, addressing insomnia is probably where it is most useful. However, again, insomnia is a complicated process. Some people have trouble getting to sleep, some people have trouble staying asleep, and some very unfortunate people have trouble with all of the above. The approach to treating insomnia depends on the type and, therefore, the dose, the timing, and particular products need to be carefully selected.
Question 4: Can cannabis cure cancer?
This is a very complex question. If the question is, “Can cannabis help with the symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments?” then the answer is most definitely yes. When we are talking about pain, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty eating, cannabis can be very helpful.
On the other hand, if the question is really can cannabis cure cancer, the answer is we don’t know at this point. By the nature of cancers, it seems very unlikely that cannabis will solve the problem by itself. There are some very exciting studies currently ongoing that suggest that, in the test tube, some types of cancers can be killed using chemicals extracted from certain cannabis, so that’s very encouraging. But, a test tube and a human being are very different and there’s still a lot of research to be done.
Question 5: Can cannabis help with sex?
Yes, cannabis can be very helpful for sexual issues. We need to remember that sexuality can become a problem for all genders over the course of a lifetime, and that nobody is particularly good at seeking help for these sorts of things. That’s unfortunate. Cannabis is the only medicine that, at this point, has evidence that it can help with multiple sexual problems regardless of gender.
There are definitely some best practices around this. There is a protocol that we use when we prescribe cannabis for sexuality that helps people learn how to use it effectively. This includes specific approaches to taking and dosing the cannabis, as well as practicing solo prior to using cannabis in partnered situations.
Question 6: What type of cannabis should I get?
There are over 7,000 types of cannabis! They are often spoken about in two categories: Sativa vs. Indica. Interestingly, the type of cannabis doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference to the medical outcome or benefit. We tell our patients that this is mostly about marketing and not to focus on these things.
It’s much more important to think about whether the problem needs to be treated with fast acting (inhaled) vs. long acting (oral) cannabis. Further, dose and timing are crucial elements to medical benefit. Strains are just not relevant.
Question 7: Can I take an edible instead of smoking?
We never recommend smoking to a patient because smoking is not healthy. Inhalation, as a broader category, is important because it has rapid onset and relatively short duration. This makes it a good choice for acute or episodic problems, for example, headaches. In those circumstances we recommend vaporization of cannabis flower (meaning the dried botanical material) and not an oil-based vape pen because they are not safe.
Edibles, on the other hand, are very different. They are slow to start working, but when they do work they last longer, about 8-12 hours. We can think of the inhalation as our immediate medication and the oral medication as our extended release medication. They are best used for different medical problems.
Question 8: Are vape pens OK?
No. Vape pens/oil-based pens are not safe. They do not appropriately measure the temperature and, as a result, they burn the oil creating toxic byproducts through the process of combustion. Further, you can actually inhale the oil, itself, in some devices. Inhaling neither the oil or the burned oil is good for your lungs and we’ve seen pulmonary disease arise as a result.
It’s not necessary to use those devices when we can more safely use a flower vaporizer instead. A good vaporizing device does measure and maintain the proper temperature (350’F/180’C) so that we extract the medicine but not products of combustion.
It’s also important to understand that the cannabis industry likes to sell oil-pens because they can make the oil from parts of the cannabis plant that would otherwise be discarded as waste. This makes these products essentially all profit, and while we’re all for decreasing waste, this is not a good reason to make unsafe products.
Question 9: Should I talk to my primary care or other doctor about medical cannabis?
The answer is a resounding yes. Your doctor is likely to say that they don’t know that much about cannabis. That’s fine, not every doctor needs to know everything about all areas of medicine. Your PCP knows a lot about Cardiology and Neurology, but not to the depth of a specialist in those areas. In part, this is how they know who and when to refer to those specialists.
It’s very important to your health that your care team know what’s going on with you. At inhaleMD we expect to communicate with your care team because it’s an important part of your medical care. If your doctor is confused or negative about the value of medical cannabis that is a time for your cannabis specialist to step up and have a conversation with your doctor to share the scientific data and the benefit/risk of cannabis medicine.
Question 10: What good is the medical care card when I can buy recreational?
One answer that is often given is that you get 20% off by not having to pay state taxes, and that you can buy more cannabis. In our opinion, the ability to purchase more cannabis is not a medical benefit.
The real benefit in obtaining a medical card is that it involves the requirement that you obtain the medical advice from a physician. They will keep you safe, help you achieve benefit, and actually save you hundreds of dollars by avoiding wasted time and products that don’t work.
Recreational legalization is a wonderful thing for recreational users, but if you are using cannabis, or contemplating using cannabis, for a health problem you owe it to yourself to get proper medical care.
At inhaleMD, our mantra is: it’s about the care, not the card.