What Patients Really Want to Know About Medical Marijuana

It’s no secret that medical marijuana has been a hot topic lately. Patients are hopeful that it could be the miracle cure they are looking for, but also have many questions about its use. To educate patients on this up and coming treatment option, Brooke Worster, MD, FACP, Director of Outpatient Palliative Care, and Gregory D. Garber, MSW, LCSW, Director of Support Services at the Neu Center for Supportive Medicine and Cancer Survivorship, hosted a Medical Marijuana Patient Seminar. There are many outlets that offer information about medical marijuana, but here are answers to some things that are really on patient’s minds:

  • Will the medicine give me a high similar to smoking pot?

    Patients are hopeful that it could be the miracle cure they are looking for, but also have many questions about its use.

    • There are different properties, so you may not experience a high, but different patients may react differently.
  • Can I drive and participate in activities regularly when I use it?
    • Treat it as you would alcohol. Be cautious with intake if you plan to drive, and if you feel impaired, do not get behind the wheel. You will still be able to work, but physicians recommend having an open conversation with your employer about it.
  • How do I know if medical marijuana is the right choice for me?
    • Have a conversation with your physician to discuss what makes sense for you. Many factors go into whether this is the right treatment path for someone.
  • I’ve seen it for sale online. Is it okay if I buy it online?
    • We do not recommend buying medical marijuana online. There are a variety of issues that can come along with this, such as it being intercepted in the mail, or receiving the incorrect dosage or type.
  • If it will help my symptoms, it sounds great. But what are the negatives to using medical marijuana?
    • If you have never used marijuana before, it is difficult to predict how your body will react. You could experience anxiety, dysphoria, paranoia, and it can lead to panic attacks. It’s also possible to have wavelike fluctuation of nausea and vomiting. And because the medical community is still catching up to asking about medical marijuana use, you could be mislabeled at a physician appointment or hospital visit as having other problems.
  • If you use marijuana, can you lessen your opioid intake?
    • We don’t quite know the answer to this yet. We do know that medical marijuana legalization reduced the amount of opioid related hospitalizations while having no effect on marijuana related hospitalizations. But it is still unclear whether combining the two treatments could potentially be dangerous.
  • I don’t have a PA Driver’s license. Can I register for a medical marijuana card?
    • You must have a valid PA ID with your correct address on it.
  • Is this an insurance covered entity?
    • Not at this time.
  • After you are prescribed medical marijuana, how often do you need to visit the doctor?
    • You will need to have a check-up once a year that is dedicated to a discussion of medical marijuana.

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