What Medical Conditions Qualify For Medical Weed?
Unlike in the United States, Canada does not have explicit guidelines for which medical conditions can or should be treated with marijuana. It is up to each individual health care practitioner to decide what conditions and symptoms qualify the patient for medical marijuana use. Medical practitioners may, justifiably, hesitate to prescribe marijuana because there are no official guidelines or comprehensive studies with regards to the effects of the drug on various medical conditions.
Treatment plans involving medical marijuana are relatively new, so some practitioners may prefer to authorize them only if more traditional medications have been tested and failed. The decision to authorize medical marijuana use may also depend on the patient’s age and overall health, not just their current medical troubles. When a doctor or registered nurse decides that marijuana is the best treatment option, they will provide a document that will enable the patient to register with an approved medical marijuana provider. The document also serves as proof that the patient may purchase and possess (and in some cases, grow) medical marijuana.
Research suggests that marijuana may be useful in treating a vast variety of symptoms and conditions. Marijuana contains cannabinoids, chemicals similar to the endocannabinoids found naturally in the human body. The endocannabinoid system is thought to have an important role in regulating systems throughout the body, including neural development, immune function, cardiovascular function, and bone density. Cannabinoids are also thought to help regulate appetite, pain, sleep, memory, stress, and emotion. The cannabinoids in marijuana interact with the endocannabinoid system, which explains why marijuana can affect so many different systems in the body.
There are numerous medical conditions and symptoms for which medical marijuana may be a preferred treatment option, such as:
- Nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Loss of appetite associated with HIV/AIDS or cancer
- Pain and muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis
- Arthritides and musculoskeletal disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Seizures caused by epilepsy
- Insomnia and/or depression associated with many chronic illnesses
- Movement disorders such as Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
- Pain, nausea, depression, and other symptoms associated with palliative care
- Acute or chronic pain with a variety of causes
- Headaches or migraines
- Gastrointestinal system disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and hepatitis
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Symptoms associated with alcohol or opioid withdrawal
Note that Health Canada does not specifically recommend medical marijuana as a treatment for any or all of these conditions. In fact, the Canadian Medical Association officially opposes smoking marijuana (or other plants).
Further studies will be necessary before we can truly know whether marijuana is an effective treatment option, and whether it carries adverse long-term effects. Much of the information currently available is historical or anecdotal, not clinical.
At this time, the question of which medical conditions should be treated with marijuana is still a controversial topic with a variety of possible answers. Consult your health care practitioner for more information, or see the Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis document prepared by Health Canada.Back To FAQ