A Guide to Talk to Your Doctor About Cannabis or CBD

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Countless people have used cannabis for millennia. For much of this time, they have used it for medicinal benefit. Cannabis use long preceded Hippocrates and the subsequent institutional medical care. Hippocrates taught physicians should “do no harm.” That has been the commitment of medical professionals ever since. But cannabis users and medical practitioners are finding themselves between the rock and hard place. If you use cannabis or CBD products, you may need a guide to talk to your doctor.

Here’s the back story

  • The worlds of institutionalized medicine and pharmacology have consciously kept cannabis on the back burner. They have done so despite centuries of anecdotal evidence to the contrary. They have characterized “anecdotal” as “conjectural,” “personal,” “subjective,” and “untested.” This diminishes the value of a history of human experience even if “anecdotal” reports lack the rigorous science that has come to underwrite modern methods and remedies. This is also true of the anecdotal reports on many natural and organic elements and therapies. Citrus oil, various kinds of vinegar, and assorted herbs and spices have applications that often succeed were science and pharmacology fail. The most memorable and recent incident is the discovery that CBD extractions can relieve certain forms of drug-resistant epilepsy. We can’t put all our money on the legacy of Charlotte’s Web, but it draws attention to the problem.

  • Much of the opposition to cannabis use and research stems from naïve and fundamentally racist response to the expanded interest in marijuana through the first quarter of the last century. Mexicans and Blacks were easy targets for blame in an era where the elite could afford cocaine. The fear of “reefer madness” launched a broad and deep prohibition of cannabis as having any values other than psychoactive escapism. That prohibition, reaching the highest level of U.S. politics and legislation, categorized cannabis with cocaine, heroin, and LSD. This, in turn, stopped extensive and worthy research.

  • The moves to legitimize cannabis that rolled us into this century have produced a patchwork of thinking. Eleven states have permitted citizens to grow, process, sell, buy, transport, and use recreational cannabis or medical marijuana under various limitations. An additional 22 states now permit the production, transport, sale, purchase, and use of medical marijuana only. The states permitting the sale of medical marijuana do so for the treatment of as many as 40 ailments.

More recently, hemp-based CBD products with negligible THC content. These products — soaps, balms, lotions, edibles, and beverages — appear everywhere with little or no oversight and regulation. While there is no reported evidence of harm, their claims to efficacy have caught the attention of regulatory authorities who threaten legislative action. This only confuses our picture.

You and your doctor

Doctors are bound by laws and traditions of patient confidentiality, so there is no reason to avoid talking to your physicians — general practitioner or specialist. However, you will encounter one of three mindsets.

  1. Conservative: Long established practitioners have little interest in the contemporary turn of events. They are comfortable with the institutionalized belief that cannabis is bad in any configuration.

  2. Moderate: Doctors who have come of age and to practice during this period of advocacy may be more open-minded to occasional use, but they are not likely to bring it up.

  3. Liberal: Doctors remain bound to not recommend anything harmful. However, they may be more current on available research on alternative therapies and are willing to listen to your concerns. They may even be developing in specialties using cannabis as part of therapies for many conditions. You will also find “mail-order” doctors willing to sign off on any diagnose or prescription for care. We’re not talking about them here.

How to talk to your doctor

  • Quit while you are ahead! If you are suffering from problems in respiratory, pulmonary, circulatory, cardiac, or other vital systems, you cannot expect the doctor to approve the use of cannabis that affects these systems.

  • Tell the truth! You should explain where you are and where you want to be in terms of use. You should not expect the doctor to know what you are doing, and what you are doing may counteract with some medical condition or with standard diagnosis and treatment. You should be as honest as you expect the doctor to be. Moreover, if you are a heavy user, you are naïve to think the doctor hasn’t noticed.

  • Come prepared! If you are serious about taking care of yourself and using recreational cannabis or medical marijuana, you should do some research about what’s good and not so good for you. One way to test your knowledge and concerns is to make a list of questions to ask the doctor. For instance, there is evidence that cannabis reduces the optical pressure associated with glaucoma. You might want to open a discussion on that if you are a patient. However, if you suffer from hypertension and/or emphysema, medical marijuana may be counter-indicated.

  • Know what you want! There are no “one-size-fits” all cannabis strain or CBD products. Individual strains will impact different medical conditions with different results. Some hare more effective as anti-inflammatories; others have a strong effect on nausea; and, still others offer chronic pain remission. Some strains serve more purposes than others. So, you should not be looking for broadscale authorization to use when you could benefit more fully from one strain or another.

How to listen to your doctor

If you a license to continue with your habit, you can find someone to “authorize” what you want. If you are concerned about your health, you should listen attentively. For example, smoking marijuana may be risky if you suffer from asthma. However, an open discussion of benefits and risks might surprise you with a recommendation to use a specific dosage of a non-smoking method of consumption.

If you suffer from multi-system syndromes like Lupus, Arthritis, or Fibromyalgia, you should explore the possibilities of balanced therapies. You must understand and examine the side-effects and the potential for negative psychoactive experiences. If you’re ready and open-minded, you will find a talk with your doctor easier than you think.