More than half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some form, and more are considering bills to do the same. Pain is the main reason people ask for a prescription. It could be from headaches, a disease like cancer, or a long-term condition, like glaucoma or nerve pain.
There are few subjects that can stir up stronger emotions among doctors, scientists, researchers, policy makers, and the public than medical marijuana. Nevertheless, individuals with life-threatening health conditions seek the refuge through the use of medical marijuana in the hopes of getting better or being able to manage the state of their health.
As such, here are some of the things that only medical marijuana users understand.
Has the FDA approved medical marijuana?
The FDA has approved two man-made cannabinoid medicines — dronabinol (Marinol, Syndros) and nabilone (Cesamet) — to treat nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. The cannabidiol Epidiolex was approved in 2018 for treating seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
You are on your own
You may be thinking, Hey, if it’s “medical,” a doctor will help me navigate the green new world. Often, that’s not so. A few users have a medical marijuana doctor who walks them through products and shows them how to use a vape pen. But that’s unusual. “Older people think there will be a prescription waiting for them at the dispensary, like at a drugstore,” says Rick McKnight, 72, a retired sales executive from Ocala, Florida, who self-treats hip pain with marijuana. “It’s not like that. You get your medical marijuana card. The doctor gives you some recommendations — not a prescription. Then you’re on your own.”
Medical marijuana can be taken in several forms
Contrary to what many believe that marijuana can only be taken in by smoking weed, it can actually be consumed and ingested in the form of a chocolate brownie or even a lollipop, making it easier to treat children suffering from epilepsy. There are a variety of ways to take the drug. You can inhale a vaporized spray, smoke the leaves, take a pill or liquid, or bake it into foods. Each of these methods work differently, but many of those who use medical marijuana divulge that they immediately feel the effect of the drug once they smoke or vaporize it.
Dispensaries carry a dizzying variety of products
It’s like a trip to an adults-only candy store, loaded with tinctures and oils, vape pens and “flower” (dried marijuana), mouth sprays and skin patches, fancy chocolate truffles, cinnamon-scented cookies, and sodas, balms and lotions, all laced with the active ingredients in cannabis. You’ll also find high-strength concentrates, waxes and resins. What’s on sale differs by state, and free samples and in-store use are against the law.
Edibles only seem low-risk
Hey, it’s just candy, right? But that rainbow-hued gummy bear or little chocolate square could contain 10 milligrams of THC, plus CBD. That’s three to four times the amount experts recommend for older adults. “Edibles take from 30 minutes to four hours to take effect. It’s easy to eat more because you aren’t feeling anything after a few minutes,” says Danielle Fixen, an assistant professor in the University of Colorado’s pharmacy school. “But then the effects last six to eight hours.”
Medical marijuana can be difficult to acquire
There are certain states that consider the use of medical marijuana as legal, while there are other states which allow a restricted use. Nevertheless, there are still several parts of the globe that deem the use of medical marijuana as illegal. This makes it difficult for several patients to acquire the drug even if they need it for their treatment. Apart from this, not all doctors are willing to provide a written recommendation allowing a patient to use medical marijuana for their treatment. A written recommendation from a licensed doctor is necessary for patients to be able to acquire the drug. Apart from this, the health condition of the patient must also be one that qualifies for the use of the drug, otherwise, there is no possibility for the patient to be able to get hold of medical marijuana. There are even states that require patients to get a medical marijuana ID. These requirements make it more difficult for patients to easily get hold of medical marijuana, sometimes even discouraging them to further pursue this possible cure for their disease. However, there are still those who are persistent in acquiring medical marijuana, particularly those who have already proved its benefits.
Marijuana’s stoner stigma persists
Whether it’s a holdover from America’s decades-long war on drugs or pot’s still-illegal federal status, many older proponents of medical marijuana continue to hide their use. The lingering stigma associated with pot keeps some people from telling their doctor, too, says Hillary Lum, a geriatrician and associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “In a recent survey, 30 percent of older adults didn’t answer the question about whether or not they used medical marijuana,” she says. “If people feel uncomfortable with it on an anonymous survey, they may also feel uncomfortable telling their doctor. That could have ramifications for their health.”
Medical marijuana sometimes has side effects
Like with any other drug in the market, patients using medical marijuana also experience side effects from using the drug. Some demonstrate blood shot eyes, while others seem to be depressed. There are also those who report feelings of dizziness and hallucinations, while others encounter a faster heart beat and lower blood pressure. Nevertheless, the side effects vary from one person to another and more often than not, the side effects also depend on the certain ailment or health condition they are treating.
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