Legal access to cannabis for certain medical purposes was first granted in Canada in the early 2000s. In 2018, Canada legalized cannabis for personal, non-medical use by adults (19 years of age or older in Ontario). While 14% of Canadians reported using cannabis in 2018, 21% said they might try cannabis or increase their use of cannabis after legalization.
Now that cannabis is no longer an illegal substance, some people may feel more comfortable talking openly about it and its use. Here are three things to think about if you are considering cannabis as a treatment option for the first time.
1. What benefits are you looking for?
Be clear about the reasons you have for wanting to try cannabis, and find out if cannabis is considered effective for your needs. Some conditions that may be treated with cannabis – in the right doses – can include:
- Chronic pain
- Sleep disorders
Your healthcare professional can help you explore and make an informed decision. Health Canada has lots of information on cannabis for health professionals.
2. Is this right for you?
Think about cannabis the same way you think about other treatments and medications. It can come with benefits and risks, so you should read the fineprint, so to speak. It can work differently for different people. It can interact with other prescriptions you are taking. And, some people just shouldn’t go for it because there’s a strong chance it will be harmful for them.
People who use cannabis for medical reasons have usually tried other “conventional” treatments with no success. Health Canada cautions against use if:
- you are under 25, unless the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. This is because cannabis can impact young developing brains in ways it doesn’t affect adults.
- you have a personal history or a family history of psychiatric disorders.
- you have a history of substance abuse or tend toward substance dependence.
- you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant.
This list isn’t exhaustive. For more information visit Health Canada’s cannabis information page.
3. “Start low and go slow”
Believe it or not, dose matters when it comes to cannabis. (Remember when I told you it was like other medications?) For example, if you are using cannabis to reduce anxiety, too much can actually have the opposite effect, so low doses are recommended. The general approach is to “start low and go slow”, to see how cannabis affects you and the condition or symptoms you are using it to treat.
Ready to learn more? Learn along with us.
Join BIAYR on March 1, 2019 for a free educational workshop to explore the potential use of cannabis for the treatment of acquired brain injuries (ABI). We will review the history of cannabis and examine research that supports the use of cannabis in people living with ABIs.
Event details: Can cannabis be used to treat acquired brain injuries?
By Stephanie Cowle