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A Patient’s Guide to Talking to Your Doctor About Cannabis

talk to your doctor

So you have decided you want to try medical cannabis– or you want to tell your doctor that you are using it. This could go one of two ways; either the doctor will informally signal their support or they will tell you there is not enough research and suggest you try something harder instead.

If your doctor is the latter, perhaps it is time to find a new doctor.

Doctors are not taught about the endocannabinoid system, nor do many of them have any formal training whatsoever with the cannabis plant. But, a doctor who hasn’t been living under a rock the last 20 years (or choosing willful ignorance) will know that cannabis cannot kill you and is being found to have more and more medical applications. If your doctor has not even taken the time to look into this issue his or herself, then you should probably question their judgement on the drugs they do recommend in its place.

If using cannabis is illegal in your state it is important to both consider your supply and also know that your doctor cannot turn you in or punish you for being honest about your use. However, with certain cases of chronic pain and pain management, you must use your best judgment when disclosing cannabis use, which could potentially cost you your other pain medications.

1. Be familiar with the studies yourself

You may not be a professional medical researcher, or even have familiarity with reading studies, but it is important that you understand why you want to use cannabis for your symptoms. Take a trip to to PubMed or Google Scholar and enter the name of your condition or symptoms and “cannabinoid” or “marijuana” or “cannabis”. Each study will have an “abstract” or short summary of the study’s parameters (what they are studying and how they plan to do it) plus the results and forward looking statements. Perhaps print some out and have them with you to share with your doctor, who will have a more critical mind toward the study’s methodologies and how that could apply to you personally.

2. Don’t be combative

If a doctor is unwilling to even listen to you on this issue, fighting with them won’t change their mind. Don’t accuse them of being in big pharma’s pocket or having ulterior motives (even if you are thinking it), but instead, personalize your message. You will have a much bigger impact if you say something along the lines of, “I find it really unfortunate you won’t consider looking into this as it could significantly improve my quality of life, and therefore I will have to find a new doctor who has my best interests in mind.”

3. Be explicit

Tell your doctor why you are using cannabis, how it makes you feel and how it affects your symptoms. Take personal notes so you can share results with your doctor.

Angela Bacca is a Portland, Oregon-based writer, journalist, photographer and medical cannabis patient. She has been working in cannabis media for eight years.

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