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Medical marijuana use in palliative care (Canada case)

In this interview, where transcripts parts were taken by, Dr. Paul Daeninck (MD, MSc, FRCPC, Head of Pain and Symptom management CancerCare Manitoba Medical Oncologist and Palliative Care Consultant Medical oncologist and palliative care consultant), talks about medical marijuana use in palliative care as a treatment. He provided a video interview to the Canadian Virtual Hospice, and was released by Creative Commons license. (Note to the readers: you must respect the laws in your country / jurisdiction in regards to medical marijuana, and always consult with an authorized medical professional).

One thing I hear a lot from patients, or I receive a lot of questions, is around medicinal marijuana, cannabis, how do we use these medications…

I think it’s an important thing for cancer patients, even for patients who have chronic disease, especially with the whole idea around medicinal marijuana and the program that the (Canada) government has, where you can get marijuana through their sources.

I think that there’s still that stigma… there are probably about three groups. There’s the older group – so people who are beyond the baby-boomers, let’s say the people who are in their 70s and 80s, who say “yeah, sure, I’ll try it”. They’ve heard about it, they maybe not tried it before, so they’ll use a little bit of it and they’ll see what happens… There’s the baby boomers group who have been taught to “just say no” and it’s so foreign to them to take this. They’ve been taught that it’s an illegal drug, that it’s a gateway drug, all this sort of things, and so they have more difficulty with that. And then there’s people who are users already, either people who have been long-term recreational users of marijuana, or maybe some of the younger people who want to use marijuana and they want some sort of… legal justification for it. And I think that it’s really fascinating to talk to each of those groups in a different way to say “well, this might be something that we can look at on how do we go about that”.

The government program called “The Medical Marijuana Access Program” has made a difference to some of those people and they’ve said “Well, if the government thinks it’s okay, then it must be okay”.

The problem is the government just opened the floodgates but didn’t give a whole lot of education to other health professionals. So that’s one project that I do on a national basis, we’re trying to deal with some of that education.

But even with the individual, there are some people who will do amazingly well with either smoked cannabis, or some of the products – there are medicinal products of cannabis, people have boiled down cannabis, in a form, and they come out with actual medications, truly approve medications.

And some of those medications have fantastic effects. Many people I’ve had… I actually have some people who are on a chronic dose of this, and they’ve been able to get back to, I would say “a more normal” life, I wouldn’t say “normal”, but definitely a more normal life.

Some people use it for things like anxiety… I have one person, a beautiful story, how she wasn’t able to sleep because she was having dreams and terrible nightmares, almost a little bit of post-traumatic disorder because of this whole cancer issue. We decided that we try a little bit of marijuana at night. I suggested pills, but she said “no, I’ve tried marijuana before, and I’m happy to try it again”. She literally does two puffs and within about 10 minutes she’s off to sleep, and she’s had much better nights. She has less anxiety coming into the Cancer Center. And it’s not like this person has started a process of looking for harder or worse drugs – she can actually control it and that’s one thing that I think patients like: the control about all of this.

We just have to get people around, or, we have to find different ways to administer the medication. Not everybody likes to smoke, so there are different things, there’s a newer availability of things called “vaporizers” where you can actually heat the marijuana, you get the vapor but you’re not sucking in the the burning of the of the actual plant.

Source, image, and CC license: https://bit.ly/2WnHyHN

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