Cannabis has been a part of the pharmacopeia in many cultures globally for centuries. Today there are countries and states within the U.S. that offer medical cannabis programs. Programs that provide legal access to cannabis for patients. To become a medical cannabis patient, you must first obtain a physician’s recommendation for you to utilize cannabis. Typically to obtain this recommendation you must suffer from a qualifying medical condition.
Unfortunately, according to statistics, only 13% of medical professionals have knowledge regarding the body’s endocannabinoid system. As a result, many doctors are very hesitant to recommend cannabis to patients. Many times this is simply because they do not understand how it can be utilized. Or perhaps they are not aware of just how effective it can be as a medicine. While many people argue that we need more research regarding cannabis and its efficiency as a medicine, others say that it isn’t research that is necessary but rather proper education.
The End of Prohibition is Near
This is especially true for medical professionals that hold the lives of so many in their hands. The draconian age of Reefer Madness propaganda is starting to dwindle away. With this more people are becoming privy to the potential benefits that cannabinoid-based therapies could offer. This is leading many patients to open dialogue with their medical providers regarding cannabis as a possible treatment option.
Unfortunately, many medical professionals lack education in this area. This education is something that Cathleen S. Graham is hoping to facilitate. Cathleen is the 2019 Americans for Safe Access Cannabis Medical Professional of the Year Award winner and founder of Cannabis Nurse.
I had the opportunity to speak with Cathleen regarding the work she is doing as a Cannabis Nurse as well as five areas in which medical professionals need more education regarding cannabis. Check out the Q&A below with Cannabis Nurse Cathleen S. Graham to learn more.
Q&A with Cathleen S. Graham
Cannabis Nurse Founder and 2019 ASA Medical Cannabis Professional of the Year Award Winner
Ashley Priest: What do you feel is the main reason why medical professionals are not more educated about cannabis?
Cathleen S. Graham: Traditionally, medical and nursing schools are cautious about stepping into controversial and politically-related topics. Research has shown that fewer than 1 in 10 medical schools include cannabis in their curricula (2017). As an example, many do not even realize science now says we have 12 body systems – including the EndoCannabinoid System (ECS). Additionally, there are evidence-based studies about the potential benefits and harms of medicinal cannabis, yet the established medical education system is simply not getting this information out to health care professionals. Basically, it’s just left up to the medical professional to navigate through facts and fiction and figure it out for themselves.
Ashley Priest: How do you feel is the best way for medical professionals to increase their knowledge regarding cannabis?
Cathleen S. Graham: With the web today, there is almost too much information out there. It’s easy for anyone to be overwhelmed and confused by “experts” who generate facts to defend their opinions. Especially when it should be the other way around. The challenge of educating people about cannabis is not just that there is so much information people don’t know – it includes the fact that much of what people “know” about cannabis is wrong. The best thing a medical professional can do is to obtain knowledge (and continuing education credits) from independent, balanced, nonbias experts.
Ashley Priest: How can Cannabis Nurse help medical professionals obtain the knowledge they need regarding cannabis?
Cathleen S. Graham: Cannabis Nurse will soon be offering continuing education credits for education specific to medicinal cannabis that is approved through the Ohio Nurses Association. We expect to have web-based courses by mid-2019. In addition, medical professionals can attend any of the events by Cannabis Nurse throughout the state of MI!
Ashley Priest: As a medical professional that is educated regarding cannabis, how do you feel cannabis can benefit patients the most?
Cathleen S. Graham: What I have noticed most is the anti-inflammatory benefits the active ingredients of cannabis provide to the patient. Chronic inflammation leads to several diseases and conditions, including some cancers and rheumatoid arthritis. Managing inflammation within the body might help reduce the risk of developing these conditions and diseases. In addition, as an anti-inflammatory, it also decreases pain.
Ashley Priest: In your experience, what is the biggest danger presented by cannabis consumption?
Cathleen S. Graham: Although cannabis is safe the biggest danger is not knowing that all cannabis is not created equal not even close. For example, each chemotype and their active ingredients interact with our body’s Endocannabinoid System producing different effects. One variety might give a couch lock effect where a different type will make one hyper, and there are other kinds that bring focus and reduce stress.
5 Things Every Medical Professional Should Know About Cannabis
According to Cathleen here are five things every medical professional should know about cannabis. This, of course, is aside from how it works with the body’s mammalian endocannabinoid system to help create a state of homeostasis within the body.
- Adverse Reactions
- Antidote to Overmedicating
- Not All Cannabis Is The Same
- Drug to Drug Interactions
Ashley Priest: Why do you feel that these 5 aspects are the most important for medical cannabis professionals to understand thoroughly?
Cathleen S. Graham: Because as a medical professional we took an oath to do no harm. Without this basic knowledge, we could cause harm. Additionally, by knowing those 5 necessities we can help to minimize the risk for an adverse experience and assist the patient in having a better outcome. For example, if a chemotype with high THC or Pinene is given to a patient with anxiety, it could potentially cause harm and exacerbate their disease process. Likewise, cannabis can decrease blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Not educating your patient taking medications to manage those disease processes could cause harm to the patient by causing hypotension or hypoglycemia when mixed with cannabis.
Advice from a Medical Professional Regarding These Aspects
Ashley Priest: Could you please provide us with some general advice regarding each of these aspects from a medical professional’s perspective?
Cathleen S. Graham:
- Adverse Reactions to Cannabis: If I do not know the adverse reactions to a product a patient is taking how can I provide education to keep them safe?
- Antidotes to Overmedicating with Cannabis: Knowing the proper way to help someone saves time and aggravation for both the medical professional and the patient. People do overmedicate, and it causes anxiety and stress. Knowing how to rapidly decrease the amount of THC is vital to a patient having a bad experience to overmedicating.
- Not All Cannabis Is The Same: There are many different varieties, or chemotypes of cannabis educating the patient on which cannabis is best for their disease process could help minimize cost to the patient and increase the likelihood of a better outcome for the patient.
- Potential Drug to Drug Interactions with Cannabis: There are a growing number of drug-to-drug interactions. Cannabis can increase or decrease the effectiveness of medication by up to 40%. This could potentially cause liver toxicity in some patients.
- Cannabis Consumption Warnings: It is essential to educate the patient to start low and go slow. The idea is to manage the disease process with the least amount of medication to control those symptoms. Consuming edibles can be hard to titrate as they are erratic in their absorption rate. Some edibles can take up to 2 hours to become effective. People do not realize this and as a result, can easily over consume causing adverse reactions.
Thank you, Cathleen, for your time and input. We wish you continued success in your mission to facilitate cannabis education to patients and medical professionals alike.