Questions to ask your doctor about cannabis

With medical cannabis now legal in 33 states, many patients are seeking guidance on how to incorporate it into their wellness plan. Talking to your doctor first is recommended, especially if you are taking other medications.  Here are some tips to help you have the conversation.

DO SOME RESEARCH

Cannabis medicine is an evolving field, and while much research has been performed, we are in need of much more. Your first step could be to check Pub Med or ProjectCBD to see if there are any studies for the symptom you are aiming to address. Be sure to make note of the dosage being used in the research, as often it is very high amounts that are not practical to take daily.

HAVE THE CONVERSATION

In states with legal medical cannabis, doctors are aware that patients may be considering what it can do for them.  Be frank with your doctor; let them know you are interested, and why. Make sure they have a good sense of your current and past medical history, so they can guide you appropriately.  

Use this list of questions to guide your conversation, and make sure you are prepared with your answers.

  1. Is your doctor familiar with cannabis medicine, and have they done any research on its benefits?  Do they know the difference between hemp and marijuana, THC and CBD?
  2. Is your doctor familiar with the endocannabinoid system and how it works? 
  3. Do they have any other patients using cannabis or CBD medicine?
  4. What product and dosage would they recommend you start with? [Note, a usual starting dose for CBD is 5-15mg and for THC 2-5mg]
  5. Are there any known interactions with other medications you are taking or conditions you have?
  6. What format and dosage should you start with? Do they have a specific product they recommend?
  7. Do they recommend a good place to purchase your medicine?
  8. How long should you stick with a certain dosage or protocol before trying something else?
  9. What to do if you feel badly after taking the medication? Note, this can be especially important if you are trying THC (which can get you “high” vs. just CBD which does not get you “high”).

WRITE IT DOWN

Once you start taking your new medication, be sure to carefully track what you are taking, what dose, what time of day, and what else you have eaten.  Pay attention to how you feel after each dose. Cannabis affects each person differently, and it usually takes some trial and error to get the right dose and method of administration for each person.  By tracking what you are taking, you will be able to adjust your plan more accurately, and it will be important to share this information with your doctor.

FIND SOMEONE WITH EXPERIENCE

It is possible that your doctor will not have much knowledge about the benefits or uses for cannabis, or CBD. The endocannabinoid system, which governs the interaction of cannabinoids from cannabis in our bodies, was not discovered until 1992, and is still not taught regularly in medical schools. If your doctor is not familiar with cannabis uses, you may want to seek out a doctor or nurse who specializes in cannabis medicine, and is familiar with its uses, doses, and interactions. 

Plant Society recommends Nurse Sue Feldmeth, a cannabis nurse and member of the Cannabis Nurses Association.  Sue performs one-on-one consultations with patients who are seeking to replace some of their medications with cannabis. She works remotely through telemedicine.  You can book an appointment with her here.

WHERE TO FIND IT

There are many apps that help you find legal dispensaries in states with legalized medical cannabis.  In many states, delivery services are also available, so if you know what you are looking for, you can order online and have it delivered.  Going in to a dispensary can also be useful, as the staff are frequently knowledgeable about the products they carry.

A few good apps to try:

  • EAZE – delivery in California
  • LEAFLY – find dispensaries and a vast archive of product and strain reviews
  • WEEDMAPS – find dispensaries or delivery services

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