Medical Marijuana and Terminal Illness

People who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness suffer a broad range of physical and emotional symptoms and other overwhelming struggles. Terminal illnesses are devastating diagnoses, and patients must learn to cope with the news that their disease cannot be cured.

When it comes to terminal illnesses, conventional medicine focuses on palliative treatment goals. This means doctors aim to make their patients feel as comfortable as possible in their last remaining weeks or months. Unfortunately, most of the drugs prescribed to terminally ill patients cause a host of unpleasant side effects, and some people flat out stop responding to conventional treatments. That’s where natural therapies come into play.

Medical cannabis is an excellent option as a complementary treatment solution alongside prescription opiates or other drugs for symptom management, but it can also be an effective alternate solution when patients suffer from side effects and no longer wish to take conventional medications.

Studies on medical cannabis and terminal illness have proven its effectiveness in treating specific symptoms that are often associated with end-of-life difficulties. Medical cannabis is a safe remedy for maintaining quality of life and providing comfort and relief for patients with terminal illnesses.

What Is a Terminal Illness?

Terminal illness is a broad term used to describe any kind of illness that is incurable or untreatable. Patients with a terminal illness have been told by their medical team that they have a certain remaining life expectancy and their disease will likely result in death. Illnesses like AIDS or cancer can be diagnosed as terminal illnesses when the disease is too advanced to be treated.

One of the primary issues surrounding a terminal illness is the psychological trauma associated with the diagnosis. Many patients fall into a deep depression and may even turn to substance abuse. Additionally, many of these patients have such advanced illnesses that they suffer from chronic pain, which only further amplifies their psychological symptoms.

Sadly, terminal illnesses affect far too many families. In 2006, the Pew Research Center reported that 42% of Americans know a friend or relative who is suffering or has suffered a terminal illness. Though this is a shocking statistic, but it’s made clearer when looking at the rates of terminal illnesses among Americans.

n the United States, cancer is the second leading cause of death. On average, more than 1,500 Americans die each day from cancer. HIV/AIDS is another potentially terminal illness taking far too many lives. In 2014, 6,721 Americans died from HIV or its complications, although the death rate associated with AIDS is steadily declining in the United States.

An under-recognized potentially terminal illness in the United States is kidney disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, advanced kidney failure kills more Americans than breast or prostate cancers. In 2013, 47,000 Americans died of kidney disease.

Terminal illness doesn’t just affect adults and seniors. The National Cancer Institute reported that in 2014, 1,960 children and adolescents under the age of 19 died from cancer.

With these high rates of terminal illness in American society, it’s no wonder many of these patients are turning to medical cannabis as a natural end-of-life therapy.

Terminal Illness History and Outlook

The landscape of illnesses has changed drastically in the past 100 years. Thanks to greater global disease awareness and advanced medical technologies, people are living longer than ever. But illnesses themselves have evolved. A hundred years ago, it was common for people to die from infections and other acute conditions that could not be treated medically.

Today, in the industrialized world, it’s less common for people to die from infections. However, chronic illnesses attributed to our environment, lifestyles and the fact that people are living longer are the new medical challenge our society faces. Generally, our high-fat diets, sedentary lifestyles and increased exposure to synthetic products and chemicals have led to new types of terminal illnesses to combat. Cancer is a potentially fatal disease that is claiming lives at an astonishing rate.

In 2003, the World Health Organization, recognizing the global cancer epidemic, published a report estimating that by 2020, cancer death rates would increase by 50% to 15 million annually.

Thankfully, since those findings were published, medical technology has advanced, and many of these expected deaths are now preventable. There are still far too many cases where cancer results in terminal illness. This is why different therapy approaches, such as medical cannabis, can help address the cases where cancer becomes fatal.

Terminal Illness Causes

There are many different types of terminal illnesses all resulting from different causes and risk factors. Here are some of the terminal illnesses patients are diagnosed with as well as their causes:

  • Cancer: Cancer is a broad term used to describe several different diseases that can affect virtually every part of the body. There are many possible causes of cancer depending on where in the body it first develops. All cancers are characterized by the mutation of normal, healthy cells into abnormal, cancerous cells. By nature, cancer cells divide and spread quickly. As they spread, they form tumors — lumps of cancerous tissue. If left untreated, tumors will begin to shut down nearby organs, as the immune system can no longer fight against the attacking cells.

All cancers are terminal if left untreated. Some cancer types are deadlier than others. Two of the deadliest forms of cancer are brain and ovarian cancers. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 16,700 Americans will die of brain cancer and 14,080 will die from ovarian cancer in 2017.

  • HIV/AIDS: HIV is acronym for the human immunodeficiency virus. It’s caused by a sexually or blood transmitted infection that attacks a person’s immune system. After years of being infected with HIV, a person’s immune system eventually becomes so weakened they develop AIDS — acute immunodeficiency syndrome — which is fatal.
  • Kidney Disease: Kidney disease is a serious, potentially terminal illness that damages a person’s kidneys. Damaged kidneys are unable to filter the blood properly, which causes waste and toxins to build up inside the body. Sadly, initial symptoms of kidney disease often go unnoticed until the condition becomes advanced. If kidney disease reaches the most advanced stage — kidney failure — the patient is no longer eligible for a kidney transplant or dialysis and the condition becomes fatal.

These conditions are some of the many well-known terminal illnesses that exist. Countless other diseases and conditions are considered terminal when patients stop responding to treatments or when the illness becomes too advanced to treat.

Terminal Illness Symptoms

While there are many different conditions that cause terminal illnesses, each having their own unique symptoms, most patients experience a similar set of symptoms during the end stages of life. These common symptoms include both physical and emotional or mental symptoms.

Here are the common symptoms experienced by people with terminal illness:

Physical Symptoms. When patients suffer advanced stages of diseases, there are common physical symptoms that occur. These symptoms include chronic pain and general weakness. Chronic pain affects more than 60% of cancer and AIDS patients. Other physical symptoms of terminal illness include:

  • Chronic weight loss
  • Anorexia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty breathing

Emotional Symptoms: A terminal illness diagnosis is tragic and earth-shattering for patients and their families. Because of this, there is a range of different reactions among patients. Patients can experience emotions such as:

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Blame
  • Depression
  • Helplessness

Many patients diagnosed with terminal illness go on to develop depression and anxiety. The Baylor University Medical Center found up to 77% of terminally ill patients suffer depression symptoms. Other reports indicate up to 20% of terminally ill patients are diagnosed with major depression — a serious and chronic grade of depression. In many cases, anxiety and delirium also accompany feelings of depression.

Conventional Terminal Illness Treatments

Treatments for terminal illness are focused on improving a patient’s comfort and quality of life in their remaining time. Terminal illnesses, however, are untreatable in the sense that they cannot be cured. Terminal illness treatments are referred to as palliative, meaning they reduce pain without an attempt to cure the disease.

Treatments focus on alleviating pain, improving strength and appetite and managing any symptoms of depression, anxiety and grief.

Here are the types of conventional treatments and care given to patients with terminal illness:

  • Opiates. Opiates are a class of drug that suppress the central nervous system and provide pain relief and a sense of euphoria. Morphine and hydromorphone are two of the most commonly prescribed opiates to relieve pain during end-of-life. Fentanyl, oxycodone and methadone are other opiates used to alleviate chronic pain for patients with terminal illness.
  • Anti-nausea medications. Nausea and vomiting are common terminal illness symptoms that can be managed effectively. Haloperidol is an anti-nausea medication that doctors prescribe to control these symptoms. Haloperidol can be taken orally or via injection.
  • Antidepressants. In many cases, doctors may prescribe terminally ill patients with antidepressants (SSRIs). Quite understandably, stress and depression arise with a patient’s knowledge of terminal illness. The physical and emotional suffering coupled with knowledge of impending death make some patients want to commit suicide, become overly stressed or too depressed to respond well to care-giving methods. Unless antidepressants are already part of the medical regimen, the patient may not respond to them in time to have any benefits before death.
  • Psychological/spiritual counseling. Doctors and experts advise patients to seek psychological or spiritual counseling to help cope with a terminal illness. Counseling helps patients better understand their condition, be better equipped to deal with it and address symptoms of depression and anxiety. Often, psychological and spiritual counseling for terminally ill patients will include the person’s family members.

Medical Cannabis for Terminal Illness

Unfortunately, many patients with terminal illnesses struggle with the types of palliative treatments they’re prescribed. Opiates and antidepressants both come with a host of side effects that can aggravate many of the end-stage struggles people experience. Medical cannabis is an alternative or complementary treatment option that many people with terminal illnesses have had success with.

The cannabis plant contains two organic compounds that provide medical benefits: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the compound responsible for the psychoactive effect associated with cannabis. It’s also shown to possibly reduce pain, relieve nausea and boost appetite.

CDB is the other compound that doesn’t produce psychoactive effects. However, it does treat symptoms like pain, nausea, depression and anxiety, which are all associated with terminal illness.

Legal medical marijuana such as Marinol is approved by the FDA. In some states, smoked marijuana is also legal under state law but still illegal under federal law. Both forms of medical marijuana have been shown to help with pain. They are not pain relievers, but can work with opiates to make them more effective.

According to UCSF, they conducted a study using cannabinoids with opiates and found that patients showed up to 95% decrease in chronic pain when using inhaled marijuana vapor with opiates such as morphine. It also showed that the dosages of opiates could be decreased when opiates are used in conjunction with cannabinoids.

Medical Cannabis for Alleviating Symptoms

One of the strongest arguments for medical marijuana and terminal illness is for the treatment of nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Cancer patients that are undergoing chemotherapy have benefited greatly from the availability of FDA approved medical marijuana. It is known to reduce nausea and vomiting, often when more traditional medical treatments for the symptoms fail to produce significant results. Nausea and Vomiting can occur with several terminal illnesses such as cancer and AIDS – related illness.

Cancer and AIDS can also result in loss of appetite. It is expected at the very end of life that appetite decreases until it is nonexistent in many cases. However, it is often good for patients to eat as much as possible until it becomes impossible. Medical marijuana can help with that and is prescribed for just such occasions. In fact, the hunger-inducing effects of medical marijuana are so well known that they are even known colloquially as “the munchies” in the recreational marijuana use community.

Medical marijuana’s effects are felt soon after ingestion and virtually immediately after inhalation. There is no waiting period as there is for antidepressants. There is no guarantee that it will alleviate depression, stress and suicidal thoughts. However, it is useful for its fast-acting benefits. There is some research to suggest that medical marijuana can help some of the symptoms associated with depression, particularly difficulty sleeping, but it is still an under-researched area of medical care.

Best Cannabis Strains for Terminal Illness

Medical cannabis a versatile and natural therapy for people diagnosed with a terminal illness. The diverse health benefits of the cannabis plant address many of the common symptoms terminally ill patients face.

Here are some of the best strains of medical cannabis for terminal illness and the symptoms these strains treat:

  • Northern Lights. Northern Lights is an Indica strain of medical cannabis. Northern Lights help with many of the major symptoms that terminally ill patients experience, including pain, depression, insomnia and loss of appetite.
  • Sour Diesel. Sour Diesel is a Sativa strain of medical marijuana for terminal illness. Sour Diesel is an excellent strain for managing terminal illness symptoms like pain, depression, fatigue and loss of appetite.
  • Sunset Sherbet. Sunset Sherbet is a hybrid strain of cannabis, meaning it’s crossed between the Sativa and Indica strains. Sunset Sherbet helps relieve terminal illness symptoms like nausea, pain, insomnia and depression.

There are countless different strains that can offer relief for terminal illness symptoms. Be sure to consult your local dispensary experts for more information on choosing the right strain for you.

Best Cannabis Uses for Terminal Illness

If you’re planning to use medicinal marijuana to treat your terminal illness symptoms, then it’s important to decide how you’ll consume it. You have a few different options. Here are some of the options for consuming medical cannabis for terminal illness:

  • Inhalation. Smoking marijuana, or inhaling it, is likely the most common method of use for medical cannabis. In addition to being easy and convenient, inhaling marijuana also provides fast-acting relief. For people suffering from chronic pain or depression, this is an important consideration.
  • Edibles. Another option for consuming medical cannabis for a terminal illness is to take it orally. This can be done through a cannabis-infused edible product such as chocolate. While taking cannabis orally delays the effects, it is a much longer-lasting effect than inhaling marijuana. Additionally, many patients prefer edible products over smoking because it doesn’t cause respiratory problems.
  • Drinkables. Drinkable cannabis products are another great innovation when it comes to methods of consuming medical marijuana. Drinkables are cannabis-infused drinks that are easy and convenient to use. Drinkables some in soda-like products, or you can brew cannabis tea. Like edibles, the effects from drinkable cannabis products tend to be stronger and longer-lasting.

Cannabis Side Effects and Precautions

Medical marijuana for terminal illness is generally very safe to use. There are limited side effects for most people who consume medicinal cannabis products. Some patients who are suffering major depression because of their terminal illness diagnosis may be concerned that marijuana products may heighten their depression symptoms. However, there is no research to suggest that prescribed medical marijuana can harm the terminally ill.

Additionally, marijuana does not interact negatively with other end-of-life treatments. No amount of it will result in fatal overdose. Further research is necessary to see if these trends in medical marijuana use hold true. However, its use for terminal illness is promising thus far.

If you’re planning to take medical cannabis for terminal illness symptoms, it’s important to follow the dosage instructions exactly as prescribed. For many people, the effects of marijuana make take a while to kick in. This is why it’s important to start with a small dose and gradually build from there.

Medical cannabis is a safe, alternative remedy for treating many of the terrible symptoms associated with terminal illness. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and would like to learn more about medical cannabis as an alternative treatment option, make an appointment with a local, qualified physician through MarijuanaDoctors.com today or sign up for our newsletter.

Complete Article HERE!

Medical Marijuana Infogrphic

By Jessica K

It is known that 42, 249 people died in the United States in 2016 due to overdosing on opiods, as reported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It began in 1990s with the popularity of prescription pills. In the early 2000s was with the rise in the use of heroin while the previous years have seen the use of fentanyl.

It is sad to know that people are not open to communicate about the opioid addiction so that they get the help they need. Breaking the stigma can support in overcoming the crisis. Moreover, doctors should take extra care while prescribing medications and making the patients aware about the side effects of these drugs as well as looking into alternative forms of medicine.

Cannabis is such an alternate medicine and an excellent natural herb which can help in relieving pain, anxiety, etc. There are various products available in the market, ranging from cannabis seeds to cannabis strains (like laughing buddha cannabis strain), CBD oil etc. Cannabis infused products can prove to be highly beneficial to people suffering from chronic illnesses.

While several countries are far from even considering legalization of medical cannabis, currently 29 states and Washington DC have permitted its legal use.

Why Cannabis For Palliative Treatment Is A Better Choice Than Opioids

By Prakash Janakiraman

Most treatments are meant to heal, but some are for palliative care (end of life care) in terminally ill patients. Palliative care is to provide symptomatic relief from a chronic and serious illness, and to reduce the risk of developing co-morbidities and also to improve the patient’s quality of life. The aim of the palliative care is not to treat or cure the underlying disease, but to treat the bothersome symptoms of the disease. Some of the illnesses that may utilize palliative care treatments include cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, multiple sclerosis, etc.

Finding a proper and safer course of treatment (long-term drug safety) is one of the main challenges being faced by palliative care practitioners. The goal of the drug regimen is to alleviate the symptoms as well as to mitigate the adverse events of these drugs. For palliative care of cancer patients, opioid analgesic is the prime choice of physicians, but it can cause serious harm – or even fatal events – in the long run.

The therapeutic potential of cannabinoids to treat sleep problems, pain and anorexia might play an important role in palliative care. Cannabinoids promote analgesia and inhibit inflammation via endogenous signaling, along with other benefits such as neuroprotection and anti-cancer activity, which are significant for terminally ill patients. In cancer patients, exogenous cannabinoids act synergistically with endogenous opioids and provide pain relief, opioid-sparing benefits and reduce opioid dependence and tolerance threshold. Cannabinoids may have palliative benefits not only for cancer patients, but also in neurodegenerative, HIV/AIDS and chronic pain patients. Despite these benefits, the use of cannabinoids in critical and palliative care patients remains controversial.

According to DEA classification, cannabis is a Schedule I drug that is hazardous and without any medicinal value. Most cannabis strains do not exceed 20% THC, whereas prescription drugs, such as Dronabinol, has a 100% THC-like substance, which has been classified as Schedule III drug. Naturally occurring cannabis has several ingredients that augment the treatment benefits and negate the adverse events. However, this is not applicable in synthetic, single compound cannabinoid formulation. To reduce opioid-related morbidity/mortality and improve palliative care in terminally ill patients, considering the cannabinoids as a mainstay pain management drug is the critical need at the moment.  

The risk-benefit profile of cannabinoid-based medicine greatly depends on the drug formulation and route of drug delivery.

Problems Associated with Palliative Care

Opioid overdose-related deaths are rising across the world and in the United States. Increased availability of synthetic opioids worsens the overdose mortalities, and most of the cases are due to misuse or accidental exposure. The widespread expression of mu-opioid receptors in the brainstem leads to increased binding of opioids, which also controls the respiration and is the cause of opioid overdose mortality. Overdose opioids bind with these mu-opioid receptors, which results in the suppression of breathing and death. Long-term opioid treatment also leads to development of tolerance, and the patient often requires incremental dose increases for better pain management. Although, mu-opioid antagonists, such as naloxone, are available to reverse overdose, it must be administered within few minutes of overdose crisis, which is not always possible. In addition to opioid tolerance, opioid dependence or addiction can develop during palliative care. Opioid addiction is a serious, relapsing and chronic neuro-psychiatric illness that requires long-term treatment for recovery.

The complete symptom burden of palliative care patients is poorly understood and opioid treatments may add up to other problems, such as severe constipation and prescription of laxatives to relieve constipation. According to a large assessment study that involved 50,600 Caucasian cancer patients who were on opioid therapy as palliative care, approximately 12% of patients reported moderate or severe constipation at the first assessment, and nearly 19% patients reported the same during the last assessment. All patients were on opioid therapy that resulted in moderate to severe constipation. Prescription of laxatives to treat the constipation is likely in these patients. The goal of the palliative care treatment is to relieve the symptoms, if not to mask the agonizing pain in palliative care patients including terminally ill cancer patients. Opioid therapy appears to be worsening the problems by causing/increasing distressing symptoms that require further treatments, which is undesirable and reflects the complexity and quality of palliative care treatment.

Why Cannabinoids Are Better Than Opioids In Palliative Care

While healthcare practitioners are in dilemma about prescribing medical cannabis for illnesses, the use of medical marijuana for palliative care is trending upward. Medical cannabis significantly reduces the use and dependence of opioids and also opioid overdose-related death. According to a study by RAND Corporation, there is a plausible link between the legal medical marijuana dispensaries and a reduction in opioid-related deaths in those areas. The study compared the rate of opioid-related deaths in states with and without legal marijuana dispensaries. As reported by the study, a lower rate of opioid-related mortalities (16-31%) and fewer reports of hospitalizations (28-35%) for related treatments were observed in states with medical cannabis dispensaries, compared to states without medical cannabis dispensaries. Patients who obtained treatment without legal intervention (penalized due to illegal substance use), further decreased the rate of hospitalization (up to 53%). The duration of the presence of legal marijuana dispensaries were also found to be related with the decline in opioid-related morbidities and mortalities.

Palliative care patients can easily obtain prescription medical cannabis from these legal dispensaries to reduce their reliance on opioids, prevent the opioid-related problems and also for better management of their symptoms. According to Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the evidence about the efficacy of cannabinoids is strong and cannabis could ‘provide a powerful new tool’ to combat opioids and their related problems.

According to a comprehensive literature review of available studies, patients reported improvement in quality of life, and the improvements were considered as a therapeutic outcome by the patients. However, the healthcare providers raised concerns, and were in a dilemma about supporting the therapeutic cannabis use, as the used cannabis was illegally obtained.

A Norwegian study concluded that cannabinoids possess therapeutic effects in neuropathic pain, as well as moderate anti-emetic and appetizing effects in certain groups of patients. Due to non-availability of randomized clinical trials, the study authors were unable to recommend the medical use of cannabis. All of these symptoms and indications are applicable for palliative care cancer patients. To treat vomiting, anorexia and pain, a regimen of at least three drugs should be administered, and the patient must go through the side effects of these medicines. Instead of three drugs, cannabinoids as a monotherapy can be considered to treat all three symptoms, which are common in terminally ill cancer patients. Hence there are grounds to employ medical cannabis as a palliative care drug.

Analgesia is a common benefit shared by opioids and cannabinoids. However, cannabinoids differ from opioids in anti-nociception by the involvement of endocannabinoid system. Further studies suggested the additive effects of cannabinoids and opioids in pain modulation. Medications being prescribed to augment the opioid effects and to reduce the opioid doses are called opioid-sparing drugs. Cannabinoids can greatly increase the analgesic potency of opioids and thus relieve pain in lower doses of opioids. According to studies, cannabis greatly reduced the need for opioids, or even complete eliminated the need for opioid use. Additionally, the cannabinoids work synergistically in alleviating some of the symptoms of terminally ill patients, such as pain in end-stage cancer patients.

Clinical trial evidence found that oral cannabinoids (Sativex) provided better pain relief in opioid-refractory cancer pain than long-acting opioids. The treatment was well-tolerated by the palliative care patients. According to three randomized control studies, cannabis use significantly improved the appetite, weight gain and stabilized body weight in AIDS wasting syndrome. These benefits might be helpful for terminally ill patients suffering from cancer-associated cachexia.

Conclusion

Most of the systematic review studies that are inconclusive or even against the use of medical cannabis have assessed the randomized clinical trials of synthetic cannabinoids such as Dronabinol but not plant-derived cannabinoids. Even some of the studies that assessed the natural cannabinoids lacked adequate statistical power due to flawed clinical trial design. Assessing these studies cannot provide a definitive conclusion.

Conventionally, palliative care management for most of diseases – including cancer – is opioids. Due to inevitable risk of tolerance, the patient has to take more and more narcotics, even if the drug provides little relief. Higher doses can make the patients become more confused and lethargic, with the risk of developing depression, anorexia, nausea and vomiting.

Cannabis could definitely reduce the dosage of these narcotics and also improve the symptoms by its synergistic actions. For terminally ill patients, marijuana could reduce the anguish, improve the quality of life and may also add days to their life.

Complete Article HERE!

Cannabis softens landing for ailing seniors

A tincture brought relief to 92-year-old Raymond Hayley, which also made things a little easier for his son and caretaker, William

Raymond Hayley enjoyed a day trip to Granville Island with his son, Will, in June 2017.

[B]efore passing away suddenly in September 2016, Doreen Hayley made her son swear not to put his father, Raymond, in a care home.

The “normal bachelor life” William Hayley had been living in Vancouver was about to come to a halt: with his mother gone and his 92-year-old father suffering from Parkinson’s disease, he was thrown into the position of caretaker without an instruction manual.

At the time, he had no idea how big a role cannabis would play in easing his father into the final stage of life.

Among Raymond’s favourite places to take in the sights and sounds of Vancouver were the docks of Granville Island. It was there on a summer day in late June that the Straight first met the Hayleys.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in his 70s, Raymond had spent the better part of 20 years suffering from the degenerative disorder that caused uncontrollable shaking and rigidity. As it progressed, Parkinson’s came with its own brands of dementia and anxiety, and Raymond would experience a symptom called “sundowning” almost daily.

Each afternoon like clockwork, William said, his father’s agitation and confusion became otherworldly.

“He’d get into these states—the closest thing I could relate it to is a possession,” he said. “The look on his face would change, things didn’t make sense to him; he would moan, and sometimes he’d hit himself or a chair.”

With his father waking up hourly, sleep escaped William, too. Their health suffered, and William developed anemia as Raymond’s condition deteriorated.

At his wits’ end and with no option from doctors but powerful antipsychotics, William watched a Facebook video of a man with Parkinson’s disease whose tremors subsided after he took Phoenix Tears, a highly concentrated cannabis extract.

“I thought, ‘Rather than having him come to this terrible crashing end like a plane cartwheeling down a runway, what if we could soften the landing for him?’ ”

William consulted with his father’s physician before visiting local dispensary the Village Bloomery, where he opted for a four-to-one CBD-to-THC tincture, a ratio that would minimize psychoactivity while decreasing anxiety. He said the effects on his father were almost immediate.

“Within 30 minutes, he went from eating cookies to stacking them up and building with them. He was calm, he wasn’t moaning, and he wasn’t shaking,” William remembered.

He also said that when the tension in Raymond’s body stopped, it opened the doorway to sleep—something he hadn’t done for more than 40 minutes at a time in almost five years.

“All of a sudden, six hours became eight, and eight became 10,” William said. With his father able to sleep, William could do the same. Physically, Raymond had some control of his body back, and mentally, the symptoms of his dementia began to subside, according to William. He added that the sundowning stopped and there was light in his eyes again.

“I’ve got it down to a routine where I put it in his dentures,” William said as we circled Granville Island. “He likes it, he wants it, and he knows that it’s working.”

Raymond passed away peacefully in his son’s arms on August 21, 2017. Today, William says that not only did cannabis give him his father back; it gave his father the ability to grieve, something dementia had robbed him of.

“He was married for 69 years—some people don’t live that long,” William said in a follow-up interview. “When he became lucid enough to realize his situation, that his wife had passed away and everything was gone, he was actually able to grieve. At least with cannabis, I could talk to him about it.”

It’s the type of bittersweet story known well by Selena Wong, a Vernon-based cannabis consultant who specializes in end-of-life care.

Calling cannabis her “saving grace”, Wong said that when she realized that cannabis could have value for her grandparents, it was a game changer. But she noted that there are a few things to consider when administering cannabis to an elderly person.

“I’m really mindful that the people I work with have a positive experience with cannabis,” she said. “Seniors are people, and just like you and I want to know what we’re taking, so do they.”

Topical lotions or CBD products are good starting points, she said, because they won’t cause euphoria. A tincture is also a great option for seniors who might have trouble swallowing capsules.

“Because of the conditioning they’ve experienced, it helps them to reframe that relationship with the plant without having a negative experience.”

Looking back, William says that without cannabis, he’s not sure how well he would have coped with his father’s illness, but he’s happy to have kept his promise to his mother.

“A year is a long time to give up,” he says, “but I’d give $10 million just for another 10 minutes with him.”

Complete Article HERE!

Healthier Alternatives to Smoking Medical Marijuana

Alternative non-smoking ways for patients to use medicinal marijuana

Some patients cannot smoke medical marijuana and need to find alternative methods.
Some patients cannot smoke medical marijuana and need to find alternative methods.

By Angela Morrow, RN

The medicinal use of marijuana is now legal in a growing number of U.S. states, and other states might eventually join this list. Some patients, however, might be unable to smoke medical marijuana because of their illness, disease, symptoms, treatments and/or other factors. This article explores the alternatives to smoking marijuana that might prove healthier or more viable for patients who’ve received a prescription for medical marijuana.

Marijuana Use for Medicinal Purposes

Requiring a doctor’s prescription and secured from legal vendors, medical marijuanacan help relieve numerous symptoms, such as pain, glaucoma, migraine headaches,nausea and weight loss.

While there are various pros and cons to using medical marijuana, it’s important to understand that the use of marijuana is not without potential side effects. For example, conventional or “street” marijuana might contain harmful fungus and/or pesticides, which can prove especially dangerous for patients with a compromised immune system.

Moreover, the fact that marijuana is usually smoked — either in cigarette form, or through the use of tobacco or water pipes — introduces additional concerns. Burning marijuana leaves and buds, for example, can produce 50% to 70% more carcinogens versus traditional or “analog” tobacco cigarettes. In addition, patients who have never smoked before, or those receiving other treatments that can interfere with their ability to smoke, might find smoking marijuana difficult or simply impossible.

I found that to be a case with a patient with whom I once worked:

Mr. C was a 79-year-old man suffering from lung cancer and COPD. He suffered from chronic bone pain, nausea and severe weight loss. He asked his doctor about medical marijuana and received the necessary prescription. When I came to see him, he held a joint, but he didn’t know how to use it. It was immediately clear that because of his inexperience, and because he was using oxygen and was already suffering from a forceful cough, smoking a marijuana cigarette would not be the best method for him.

Alternative Non-Smoking Medical Marijuana Options

It’s important to again stress that medical marijuana is a physician-prescribed treatment and should only be used according to a doctor’s instruction. If you, or someone you care for, receives a prescription for medical marijuana use but cannot smoke marijuana, your non-smoking options might include:

Edible Marijuana: Medical cannabis can be heated and made into oils, butters and tinctures. Many “cannabis clubs” sell pre-made cookies, brownies, lollipops and teas. Savvy patients — those willing to take the time to empower themselves through research and knowledge — can also find recipes to make their own marijuana tincture, oil or butter.

Eating or drinking marijuana’s main or active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is certainly preferable to many patients rather than smoking it, but these alternative methods can also create problems. When consumed via food or drink, THC does not absorb into the bloodstream as quickly as when it is smoked.

This can make it more difficult to control the effectiveness of the drug or how much is consumed. In addition, patients who suffer from decreased appetite or nausea might not tolerate eating or drinking marijuana.

Vaporizers: Another option is to inhale marijuana using a vaporizer. This method involves heating the marijuana to a high enough temperature to vaporize the THC but not burn the plant. Patients can then breath in the vapor from a bag without inhaling the harsh and potentially toxic smoke.

Vaporizing marijuana is much healthier for your lungs and also produces the highest THC content of any smoking-related method. This allows patients to use a smaller quantity of marijuana at a time, which can potentially save money.

Vaporizers range from battery-powered, handheld devices to larger plug-in units. The quality and prices of marijuana vaporizers vary widely, so it is wise to shop around and read user reviews online before purchasing one.

Ultimately, my patient found a healthier alternative to smoking marijuana, too:

Mr. C experimented with edible marijuana. He found he enjoyed the marijuana brownies he was able to get at a cannabis club, but as his appetite waned, he found it difficult to stomach the rich chocolate taste. He didn’t want to invest in a vaporizer because his life expectancy was short. However, through the people he met at the cannabis club, he was able to strike a deal with another medical marijuana patient and split the cost of a vaporizer — with the agreement that the other patient would inherit the device after Mr. C’s death. It was an unusual arrangement, to be sure, but it allowed Mr. C to continue using medical marijuana for several more weeks.

Complete Article HERE!

Medical Marijuana Could Save Medicare $470 Million Annually, Study Shows

Is medical cannabis the answer to lowering prescription drug costs and reducing opioid-related overdose deaths?

By Sean Williams

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This could potentially be a groundbreaking year for the marijuana industry.

In November, residents in up to a dozen states could be voting on whether or not to legalize recreational or medical marijuana. This comes after Pennsylvania and Ohio passed laws legalizing medical marijuana in their legislatures this spring. As it stands now, half of the country has legalized the use of medical marijuana, and four states (plus Washington, D.C.) allow for the sale of recreational marijuana to adults ages 21 and up.

Arguably just as exciting is the possibility that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency could reclassify medical marijuana in a matter of weeks. The Food and Drug Administration has already submitted its opinion to the DEA, with the DEA now conducting its own investigation into the safety of medical marijuana. If the agency were to reclassify medical marijuana as anything other than schedule 1, which means an illicit drug, medical marijuana could be prescribed by physicians, and insurers may even begin covering the substance.

But that isn’t all. The good news just keeps streaming in for the cannabis industry.

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Cut Medicare’s expenditures with… medical marijuana?

Last week, Ashley Bradford and David Bradford, both of the Department of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia, published findings that examined a possible correlation between medical marijuana prescription use in legal states between 2010 and 2013 and Medicare prescription use under Part D over the same timeframe. The authors’ work can be found in the online journal Health Affairs.

What the study authors found was a correlation between medical marijuana prescription use and lower prescription drug use under Medicare for ailments commonly treated by medical marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal. For instance, medical marijuana is often prescribed to treat anxiety, depression, nausea, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. In states where medical marijuana is legal, the authors found a marked reduction in Part D expenses for FDA-approved drugs to treat these ailments. Prescription drug use under Medicare Part D for ailments that medical marijuana isn’t used for did not see a drop in these same medical marijuana-legal states.

What’s more telling is the amount of money the authors calculated that medical marijuana saved Medicare Part D in 2013. Per their estimates, it was about $165 million. According to the authors’ extrapolated estimates, they believe a nationwide legalization of medical marijuana would result in about $470 million saved annually by Part D.

One final positive is that no marijuana overdoses have led to any deaths. The same can’t be said for opioids, which are commonly prescribed as painkillers. Opioid overdoes, which include heroin, killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, and at least half of all of these deaths involved a prescription opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thus, it’s possible that if cannabis were incorporated into the care regimen for seniors, or all patients for that matter, it could reduce the costs for Medicare and Medicaid, as well as prevent unnecessary opioid-related overdose deaths.

Hold your horses

But before you get too excited that medical marijuana will save Medicare and Medicaid, keep a few things in mind.

First, saving money is great for Medicare Part D, but we’re talking about $470 million in savings on an estimated $88 billion in drug spending for 2016, per the Kaiser Family Foundation. Don’t get me wrong, saving money would be a good thing for the Medicare program, with the Hospital Insurance Trust expected to deplete its spare cash reserves by 2028. But we’re really only talking about one-half of one percent based on 2016’s spending estimates. With prescription drug costs seemingly rising by a mid-to-upper single-digit percentage each year, medical marijuana isn’t going to be Medicare’s white knight.

Secondly, we have no clue what the DEA is going to do with marijuana when it makes its ruling in the coming weeks. The DEA could decide to do nothing and leave it as an illicit schedule 1 substance. It could also de-schedule the drug completely, putting it on par with tobacco and alcohol, which seems like a longshot.

More reasonably, the DEA could reschedule medical cannabis as a schedule 2, 3, 4, or 5 drug, implying that a medical benefit exists, but suggesting that addiction to the substance exists, too. Labeling cannabis as a schedule 2 drug could prove to be a nightmare for the industry, with regulatory costs soaring. Schedule 2 means the FDA coming in and controlling package labeling, ensuring that manufacturing standards remain consistent, and potentially requiring medical marijuana companies to run clinical studies to support their claims that cannabis treats certain ailments. A rescheduling may be a victory in name only for the cannabis industry.

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Finally, we still have federal restrictions on the cannabis industry, which are making life tough, if not impossible, for investors trying to take advantage of marijuana’s growth. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill don’t look anywhere near ready to change their tune on marijuana, which means inherent disadvantages for businesses involved in the cannabis industry will continue for the foreseeable future.

For starters, access to basic financial services is hit-and-miss. Only 3% of the nation’s roughly 6,700 banks are currently willing to work with cannabis-based companies for fear of federal prosecution down the line. This means few businesses have access to business checking and savings accounts, or lines of credit to buy product and expand.

Additionally, marijuana businesses get the short end of the stick come tax time. IRS tax code 280E, in its simplest form, disallows businesses that sell illegal substances from taking normal business deductions. As long as the marijuana plant is considered an illicit substance on Capitol Hill, cannabis companies will be paying tax on their gross profits instead of net profits, thus forking over far more than they should in taxes. It’s simply not an investor-friendly environment.

Although things appear to be moving in the right direction for cannabis, you’d be wise as an investor to avoid the industry altogether until these inherent disadvantages disappear.

Complete Article HERE!

Pets on pot: is medical marijuana giving sick animals a necessary dose of relief?

As owners tout benefits and usage in compassionate care, the battle for legalization mirrors humans’ own medical marijuana fight in 1990s California

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Bernie
The Georgiadis’s dog, Bernie, who hasn’t had a seizure in four months.

Bernie, a 130-pound Swiss mountain dog, began having grand mal seizures when he was six months old. About once a week he would violently convulse, foam at the mouth, and urinate on himself for several minutes before recovering an or so hour later. The medication he was given seriously disoriented him, was harmful to his liver and for the most part didn’t work.

At the end of their rope, Bernie’s parents decided to put him on a pet supplement derived from cannabis. Gradually, his seizures became less severe and less frequent, before disappearing altogether.

Despite a large amount of promising anecdotal evidence like Bernie’s story, and a growing industry of cannabis-based pet products, many people have a hard time taking medical marijuana for pets seriously.

“It sounds ridiculous, until you experience it yourself,” said Bernie’s owner, Anthony Georgiadis, who says his dog hasn’t had a seizure in four months.

Living in Florida, where medical marijuana is illegal, Georgiadis orders Bernie’s supplement online from a California company called Treatibles. He is allowed to do this because Treatibles products are derived from legal hemp and contain little to no THC (the intoxicating ingredient in marijuana).

Many pet products are not made from hemp, though, but rather straight marijuana containing trace amounts of THC. So anyone wanting these products for their animal’s chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, appetite stimulation, or epilepsy have to live in a state where medical marijuana is legal – and even then, they need to have a prescription for themselves just to enter a dispensary.

Last year, Tick Segerblom, a Nevada state senator, introduced a bill to create a medical marijuana registry for pets.

“They thought it was a joke,” Segerblom said of his senate colleagues. “It was the talk of the country for a while.”

“Look at this moron!” Dennis Miller screamed on the O’Reilly Factor, deriding the senator’s bill, calling it “the end of culture as we know it”.

“I have fish at home that want medical marijuana,” O’Reilly joked. “I’m not exactly sure how to deliver that to them, because if you put the cigarette in there it all gets wet.”

Despite the public ridicule, Segerblom said, he had been looking forward to the issue being debated in a hearing, but that hearing never happened. In the end, he said, “it went to a committee headed by a person who hates marijuana, and he made sure that it died”.

Amanda Reiman, manager of marijuana law at the Drug Policy Alliance, said that today’s battle over animal medical marijuana mirrors the clash over human medical marijuana in 1990s California.

“When we first started talking about the idea of using marijuana as a medicine, people laughed about it,” she said. “But they’ve come around, because when you know someone who was helped by cannabis it’s not funny anymore.”

n 2013, Reiman’s cat, Monkey, was diagnosed with terminal intestinal cancer. The chemotherapy and medication caused Monkey to lose her appetite, not sleep and become lethargic. The situation reminded Reiman of the countless scenarios she’d encountered with humans after a decade of working in medical marijuana, so she decided to mix a very small amount of cannabis oil in Monkey’s food.

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In 2013, Reiman’s cat, Monkey, was diagnosed with cancer.

“It brought her energy back, she was eating and playing – she was actually acting healthier than she had been before she was diagnosed with cancer,” Reiman said. “I knew it wasn’t a cure for her, and in the end she passed away several months later. But I really do feel it gave her a quality of life at the end; instead of just fading away, she stayed strong right up until the end.”

Veterinarians caution against pet owners taking matters into their own hands, because finding the correct dose can be tricky. While many pet medicines are just human drugs in different doses, the weight ratios between humans and animals can make it easy to accidentally give your pet an overdose. And pets overdosing on cannabis is already a serious problem in states where marijuana is legal.

001As with children, it’s common for pets to stumble upon a high potency marijuana edible, eat it, and become incredibly ill and intoxicated.

“We’ve seen some serious poisonings of animals [from marijuana] and even a couple of deaths,” says the medical director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, Dr Tina Wismer.

When it comes to pet meds, Wismer says it’s not uncommon for a human medication to be applied to animals purely on the basis of anecdotal evidence. She believes more studies need to be done on the therapeutic use of cannabis on animals to find the right dose.

Dr Sarah Brandon, a veterinarian and cofounder of Canna Companion, a hemp-based pet supplement company, says that over the last 18 years, she has administered cannabis to more than 4,000 animals, and is currently analyzing data before offering it to the medical community.

“Right now, veterinarians have no guidance on this,” she says. “There’s a lot of fear out there, and they are scared to come out and recommend [cannabis]. A veterinarian can recommend a hemp-based product as a supplement, but they cannot encourage them to use marijuana.”

Dan Goldfarb, owner of Seattle-based Canna-Pet, describes the differences between hemp and marijuana: “It’s like dog breeds: you can have a chihuahua or a great dane, both of which are dogs but are bred to exude very different characteristics.”

Canna-Pet, Treatibles and Canna Companion are all strictly hemp-based, so they are allowed to sell their products outside of marijuana dispensaries – even online to states where marijuana is illegal – without the need of a prescription. This also affords them deniability when people like Dennis Miller say they just want to get their pet stoned. But there are a handful of companies who use straight marijuana in their pet products, who say that hemp is too limited.

“We’ve seen better results with a little THC,” says Alison Ettel, founder of Treat Well, who has been using cannabis on a variety of animals for ten years and was recently invited to treat seals at the Marine Animal Center in Sausalito, California. She says that hemp works for some ailments like anxiety, but doesn’t contain a number of medicinal properties that marijuana does, like appetite stimulation, and that hemp can be harmful to an animal with a compromised immune system. “We believe hemp can have more negative effects than positive.”

Ettel adds that while her products contain psychoactive properties, if used in the right dosage in proportion to the animal’s size, there is no reason they should ever become intoxicated by it.

Brian Walker’s California company, Making You Better Brands, offers a marijuana based doggie shampoo for pain relief (along with similar products for horses). Walker says that the marijuana is never activated with heat, a process necessary for making the plant psychoactive.

But his company is still regulated like any other in the cannabis industry, meaning pet owners can only buy it in a dispensary with a (human) prescription, and can’t take it out of state. Walker said the lack of information available about the differences between hemp, active cannabis and inactive cannabis has prevented acceptance among veterinarians of medical marijuana.

“They picture a dog eating a brownie and being high for two days,” he said. “But with non-active cannabis they’re not going to get high – they’re going to get well.”

 Complete Article HERE!