Where to Start
Understanding the benefits of medical cannabis is best done through experience. No one can know for sure if cannabis is helpful for them unless they try it first. It is important to check your state laws and determine if you qualify for a medical cannabis card. If you feel that you do, it is strongly recommended to see a doctor about attaining a cannabis card.
When it comes to marijuana, doctors don’t learn about it in medical school. Most physicians have never tried it. If they have, they will be much more experienced and comfortable talking to you about it. If they haven’t tried cananabis, they may be against using it and feel less comfortable speaking about it.
If you want to speak to a physician about cannabis, you can start with your primary care physician (PCP), also known as your family doctor. Since they don’t specialize in cannabis it may be best to first ask their opinion about it. Feel the doctor out before you tell them you have tried cannabis illegally. Some doctors will frown upon illegal cannabis use, even though so many people have tried using it illegally.
It may be best to start the conversation by telling the doctor that you have seen how cannabis is becoming legalized for medical purposes in many states and that there are people who say it can be helpful for treating pain or a condition you suffer from. Ask the doctor what their thoughts are about cannabis. If the doctor has positive opinions, you can ask if they would be comfortable if you tried it for your own medical conditions. See if they will be open to this and if so, would they be able to get you a medical marijuana card on their own. Some states allow all doctors to certify patients but most require doctors to be certified to approve patients for medical marijuana cards.
Things To Watch Out For
If the doctor has poor opinions about cannabis, it is best to leave the subject alone and find another doctor who is more open to the possibility of using it as a medicine. One way to do that is to find a doctor who specializes in cannabis online, like the ones here at Nature’s Way Medicine. These doctors will be familiar and very comfortable with discussing cannabis use for patients to treat their qualified conditions. Some doctors, however, who specialize in cannabis, are actually trying to sell their over-the-counter CBD products. Worse, they may be against THC so that the patients will only buy their CBD. If you find yourself in an appointment with such a doctor, tell them you will take what they say into consideration but for now you want to just see what is available at the dispensaries in your area and talk more with the pharmacist there before making a decision what to use.
Be wary talking to doctors who specialize in pain medicine about cannabis. If you are on narcotics for pain and have them prescribed from a pain specialist, they may cut you off from pain medications cold-turkey if they find out you use cannabis. Ask them if it would be okay to try to substitute cannabis for the pain medications over time so they don’t cut you off completely and make you go into withdrawal. The worst kinds of doctors are those who tell patients that narcotics are better than cannabis and prevent their patients from switching to the nonaddictive, safer alternative and instead keep them hooked on the pills that bring their patients coming in each month for refills. It is advisable to always get yourself off of pain meds and use cannabis instead. It will improve your quality of life and probably your life expectancy.
Another specialist to be wary of talking to about cannabis is your psychiatrist. These doctors are some of the last to accept cannabis use as a legitimate medication. You would think they would be the first to appreciate medical cannabis but instead their associations and organizations are always against it. Even though it is so helpful for anxiety and PTSD, they prefer to put patients on antidepressants, anxiolytics and antipsychotics. It may be best to find someone who specializes in cannabis treatment before talking to your psychiatrist about it. Afterwards, let them know another doctor recommended it to you.
One tip about speaking to your doctors about cannabis is to use the terms “cannabis” and “medical marijuana” instead of street terminology like “weed.” Physicians are trained to be careful with patients who use street terms and it is a red flag for patients that may abuse medications or sell them on the street. It will put a bad taste in your doctor’s mouth if you speak this way about cannabis.
If you already use cannabis before having a marijuana card, it is okay to say that to some doctors. Being honest is very helpful and the doctor will appreciate if you say something like,
“Doc, I tried cannabis on my own and it helped my pain/anxiety and I don’t want to use it illegally but I would like to try it as a medicine and I want to do it safely instead of buying stuff off the street.”
That kind of statement means a lot to a physician. While admitting you may have broken the law, you are also being honest and you are seeking help. Doctors are trained to help patients like this.
If you live in a recreational state you don’t even need to say you did it illegally. Just say you tried some recreational cannabis but you would prefer to use it under the guidance of a doctor. Some recreational states sell better products for cheaper to patients who have medical marijuana cards. Tell your doctor you would like a card since you would prefer to use it as a medicine rather than a recreational drug.
Stress how much cannabis has helped you for your medical conditions. Go into detail about things like how much pain has improved, your sleep is better, the tingling in your nerves is soothed, or perhaps that your anxiety melts away. Don’t lie but describe as best as as you can the benefits you have found after using it.
Saying “it helped my pain” is less impactful than saying, “when I used cannabis, my muscle spasms in my lower back decreased by half and the pain there changed from a shooting electric shock to a dull but tolerable pain and I was actually able to sleep through it.” Again, don’t lie but just describe your relief after using cannabis in a detailed, honest way.
First Time Patients
If you have never used cannabis before, ask your doctor as much as you can about it so you are prepared when it comes time to try it. The best advice they can give is to start slow and use a little at a time when you are trying it. If your doctor does not know much about cannabis, make sure to read all the articles in our cannabis education section on our website. That will be a great place to start. Your dispensary’s pharmacist may be a good resource of information as well.