CN: Unedited stream of consciousness.
Scientists confirm that marijuana, whether medical or recreational, is safer than both alcohol and tobacco. One of the considerations that went into this statement has to do with the lethal dose determinations.
When it comes to determining the danger of various drugs, there is a need to compare the lethal dose to the standard dose. How much do you need to get high, versus how much will kill you. One of the dangers of addiction with a chemical tolerance component, has to do with the fact that a higher tolerance means a higher consumption. In the case of drugs with a low ration of needed to get high to lethal dose, increased consumption can mean higher fatalities due to what people call overdose.
Whenever I bring up the topic of medical marijuana, whether openly asking people to bring up myths and questions, or discussing it with someone who knows about my own use, the first topic to come up is invariably the one of addiction. People are concerned about the addictive properties, and like anytime a patient takes treatment for pain, there are the inevitable questions about whether we are worried about becoming addicted.
I’ve addressed some aspects of addiction and addictive properties in the first MMJ 101 post. Most importantly I discussed the fact that no one pauses to consider the importance of ending pain. It is such an important point that it bears stressing again. Chronic pain has severe long term consequences, and causes long term changes to the body. Treating it is a high priority. To question whether we are sure we have to treat pain, is to underestimate its importance, and this is something that most people, unless they’ve experienced it themselves, can have a hard time comprehending. To them, it’s just pain.
To have an honest discussion of addiction, we must first understand what it is. The social perception of addiction is that it is a series of bad decisions that lead to a chemical dependency. Some views stop there and collapse addiction entirely into chemical dependency, often joking of being “addicted” to caffeine or sugar. At some point one becomes physically dependant on the chemical, creating a driving need, and ultimately the addicted person has to make another choice, this time to give up their addiction and begin the long hard road to recovery. This view often fails to distinguish between addiction and any craving or yearning for something that one enjoys, and thus regards addiction as an act of irresponsibility. There are some variations on this perception, ranging between people believing that addiction is wholly the result of some internal flaw within a person, and others believing that it is entirely the result of a chemical dependency. Neither view grasps the true nature of this phenomenon.
Among one of the concerns regarding medical marijuana are the potential barriers to the use of this medication. In places, medical marijuana is still not legal, but even in places where it is, like Canada, there are still challenges that present themselves. While my experience is limited to Canada, I find that a lot of the barriers that exist remain the same. If you have experiences you would like to share, please feel free to include them in the comments.
Knowledge – Patient’s
One of the first and biggest barriers to medical marijuana is a lack of information as to how to go about getting a prescription. It used to be that you had to fill out a large complicated set of forms to be submitted to Health Canada. The application would then be handled by some bureaucratic process at which point you would be approved or denied.
In March 2014 the rules changed. Now, instead of filling out a Health Canada form, you fill out a form directly with your choice of dispensary. The Health Canada website provides you with a list of licensed dispensaries, and most of them have their forms available online.
The forms include two parts: personal information, and doctor prescription.
The prescription form has to be filled out by a medical doctor, and includes dosage information as well as the doctor’s office information.
The forms are mailed to the dispensary, which confirms that the doctor who filled out the prescription is properly licensed, and you become a registered patient.
Knowledge – Doctor’s
While patients are uninformed, so too are doctors. When I was first looking for a prescription, I asked my GI for it. He said no. I was surprised since he actually seemed supportive of my occasional use.
Over the next few months, whenever marijuana came up with other doctors like those at the ER, they recommended that I get a prescription. I was torn, doctors seemed supportive of the idea, but yet I seemed unable to get a prescription. Finally, I decided to bring it up with my GI again and ask why he was unwilling to give me one.
It turned out that my doctor was under the impression that a condition had to be fatal in order to allow for the use of medical marijuana. Even though he thought that pot would be beneficial for me, he believed he wasn’t allowed to prescribe it for me.
Other doctors are unaware of the current available research. I had one ER doctor believe that marijuana was counter-indicated for Crohn’s even though Crohn’s is one of the few conditions that have had studies confirming the benefit of marijuana.
Patients are not the only people being fed misinformation about medical marijuana. Doctors are just as likely to have mistaken ideas about its use, its addictive properties, and so forth. The new rule changes make doctors the gatekeepers to prescriptions, but no efforts have been made to properly educate them. This leaves it up to patients to educate them or find a sympathetic doctor.
Even those patients who are more knowledgeable in the effects and use of marijuana may find it difficult to find a sympathetic doctor. It is counterintuitive to most patients to push their doctors for explanations. Since there is the fear of being labeled a drug seeker, patients might also worry about seeming over-eager about the acquisition of a prescription.