Beginner’s Guide to Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana receives a lot of press these days, especially since it is legal in at least 28 states and the District of Columbia. Recent studies confirm the medical efficacy of certain marijuana derivatives to relieve the symptoms of many conditions. If all the hype about using cannabis for medical purposes piques your interest, here’s a guide to using medical marijuana to get you started.
Guide to Medical Cannabis Uses
Like other drugs, medical marijuana works in your brain to relieve or reduce pain and anxiety. The active compounds in cannabis interact with your brain chemistry to alter your perceptions.
These are the primary uses for medical marijuana:
1. Pain Relief
Pain management grew into its own medical specialty as doctors recognized that regardless of the source, pain is a deterrent to health. Chronic pain left untreated can develop into a serious health condition because it drains the body of resources to fight disease, and it deteriorates mental health.
Narcotics are some of the strongest pain relievers available, including opioids, which are derived from opium. However, these drugs are highly addictive and present a serious risk of overdose. They are not usually recommended for chronic pain conditions, but sometimes they are the only substance that can dull the pain.
Cannabis is particularly effective at relieving pain, especially the most severe pain caused by nerve damage. There is a much lower risk of addiction with marijuana than with opioids, and there is almost no chance of overdose. Patients who suffer severe pain that does not respond well to even the strongest narcotics are often relieved with medical marijuana use.
2. Multiple Sclerosis
This debilitating central nervous system disease is often accompanied by uncontrollable muscle spasms. In multiple sclerosis, the brain’s informational system is impaired, stunting the connection between the brain and the muscles. The brain erroneously directs the immune system to attack the nervous system. Mis-firings of the nervous system can cause severe and painful muscle spasms.
The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown, and treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. Medical marijuana is used to treat the pain of muscle spasms in people suffering from this disease.
You may have heard jokes about people getting the munchies after smoking pot, but it is no joke. There is something in cannabis that stimulates the appetite, which may not be important for college coeds, but it can be life-saving for people undergoing chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is a very harsh cancer treatment that can cause extended periods of nausea. Aside from being very uncomfortable, nausea prevents you from eating. For someone fighting cancer or another serious illness, nutrition is especially important. Without the desire to eat or the ability to hold down their food, these people can’t take in the nutrients they need or maintain healthy body weight.
Epilepsy is a chronic brain disease that can be debilitating. Electrical currents in the brain randomly misfire, causing seizures. The seizures can come with little or no warning and last up to five minutes or more. They present a physical danger that the person could be injured during these uncontrollable episodes. Lengthy electrical mis-firings in the brain can also cause brain damage.
The chemicals in some strains of cannabis are helpful for reducing the length and frequency of seizures. Medical marijuana can be cultivated specifically to favor those chemicals and reduce the chemical contents that provide the euphoric feeling familiar to recreational users.
5. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Brain injury resulting from external forces can have serious and long-lasting effects. Concussions, for example, are common in contact sports like football and soccer. They occur when the head receives a significant blow that rattles the brain. Inside the skull there is a layer of fluid in which the brain floats for extra protection. When you get hit on the head hard enough for your brain to float into the side of your skull, it is bruised the same way and other soft tissue on your body would be. The bruising causes swelling and can even bleed.
The skull is a fixed size that cannot accommodate a significant amount of brain swelling. The brain is further damaged when it is squished inside the skull by the pressure of additional fluid. Under unusual pressure, the brain can sustain damage to neurons, the structures that run the complex chemical messaging system in your body.
Cannabis contains certain chemicals that have anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective properties. Medical marijuana can be useful in reducing swelling in the brain and protecting the delicate structures that move messaging chemicals around.
For decades, marijuana research centered on its psychotropic properties. More recently, these other medical benefits were discovered and tested. There is much more research to be done and likely many more uses for cannabis to treat symptoms and possibly cure disease.
Beginner’s Guide to Medical Cannabis in Florida
Florida law explicitly allows medical marijuana treatment for these conditions:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
There is also language in the law to allow doctors some discretion in treating conditions that are not on that list. A doctor may recommend medical marijuana for a patient who suffers from a condition similar to the ones listed above if that condition is debilitating. Other guidelines for Florida marijuana doctors include trying other therapies before resorting to cannabis and developing a doctor-patient relationship of at least 90 days.
It is likely that the list of specific conditions approved for marijuana treatment will increase in time. The marijuana database could provide evidence of its effective treatment of other conditions. That is one of the reasons the state is collecting and analyzing patient information.
Medical Cannabis Guide: Methods of Consumption
You may be familiar with smoking marijuana, but there are actually several ways to consume cannabis for medicinal purposes. Common means of using medical marijuana include:
Cannabis leaves can be dried and smoked, either in a pipe or rolled into small cigarettes. Since the delivery of the medicine in this form is through inhalation, the effects are felt almost immediately. This can be a good method of delivery for patients seeking relief from nausea.
Dosage is more consistent when cannabis is smoked in a pipe rather than cigarette form. Some of the ingredients are lost out the end of the cigarette while you inhale on the other end. In a pipe, or bong, those therapeutic fumes can be recaptured and inhaled.
Depending on your situation, however, smoking can be a problem. Anyone who has access to your second-hand smoke may feel the effects of the marijuana as well.
People who are not experienced smokers sometimes feel that edibles are a better way to consume medical marijuana. It seems more mainstream to them because everyone eats food. When you eat a product containing cannabis, it takes some time to feel the effects of the drug because it has to travel through your digestive system before entering your bloodstream and making its way to your brain.
There are some caveats to using edibles, especially for first-time users. That trip through the digestive system also serves to concentrate the active ingredients in the marijuana, making its effects more potent. That fact combined with the fact that it takes longer to reach your brain can cause you to overdose.
A marijuana overdose is not really life-threatening. If you get too much cannabis in your system, it may make you feel very uncomfortable. The medicinal effects will be stronger, but so will the side effects. You could experience extreme euphoria, hallucinations or paranoia. Once you swallow the marijuana, you just have to tough it out until it moves through your system.
Dosing with edibles can be more specific than with smoking, but you have to pay attention to how much you consume. One cookie may actually be three or four doses, so you need to eat one bite at a time and wait for the effects.
Creams and lotions infused with cannabis can be a great means of localized pain relief. When you apply the topical to the area of your pain, it is absorbed through your skin and starts to work almost immediately.
Additionally, when you use topicals, the marijuana does not travel to your brain and create any sort of a high.
A current trend for consuming cannabis is vaporizing, which combines some elements of smoking with perhaps a more healthful delivery system. Vaporizing does not require as high a temperature as smoking because it is not burning the marijuana. Inhaling vapors is also easier on your lungs than smoking, and the flavor is different.
Small vaporizers make it convenient to vape on the go. They are about the size of large cigarettes and are easy to hold in your hand. You can also vape with larger table-top vaporizers that can offer sophisticated temperature controls.
A tincture is a concentrated preparation made from many medicinal plants. The marijuana is soaked in an alcohol and water solution for a long time, about six weeks. The solution dissolves the active compounds in the weed and becomes super concentrated.
Tinctures are usually measured in drops because of their high concentration. A few drops are administered under the tongue according to dosing recommendations. The dosing of tinctures is fairly accurate. The marijuana tincture is absorbed through the mucus membrane inside the mouth and activates very quickly.
Some of the advantages of tinctures are that they are easy to use and fast-acting. They are rather perishable, however. When the tincture is exposed to air, it can evaporate quickly due to its high alcohol content. To maintain their potency, tinctures must be stored properly.
Medical cannabis is available in suppositories as well. This delivery method may seem to take the fun out of using marijuana, but for people who have trouble swallowing or who are experiencing extreme nausea, the suppositories are the best way to get the much-needed benefits of cannabis treatment.
Suppositories are not the most convenient way to get marijuana therapy, but they are very effective for people who cannot take it in some other form. The marijuana is quickly absorbed through the colon and begins to take effect immediately.
Refrigeration is required for storing suppositories, so they are not convenient for travel. Some people may require assistance in using them, and they can be a little messy. The marijuana in suppositories bypasses the digestive system, though, so it is not concentrated or delayed in working.
7. Transdermal Patches
Marijuana patches are just like the nicotine patches that help people quit smoking or the pain patches some people use following surgery. They are small plastic strips that adhere to your skin. They deliver a time-release dose of marijuana that is absorbed through the skin into your bloodstream. They begin working right away, and the effects last longer than other forms of marijuana because the patch continues to deliver over time.
Since transdermal patches deliver marijuana to your bloodstream, the effects are felt all over, no matter where you put the patch. Topicals, on the other hand, only deliver results to the area where you apply them.
Dosing for transdermal patches is extremely accurate. As long as you leave the patch on for the requisite period of time, you will absorb all of the benefits. None of the active ingredients are lost in second-hand smoke or altered by your digestive system.
As new uses for medical marijuana are discovered and perfected, the means of consuming the treatment will also develop and adapt. Like all other areas of medical science, researchers are constantly finding way to improve the benefits while reducing side effects.
It is a good idea to discuss the various means of marijuana delivery with your marijuana doctor. They can answer all of your questions and work with you to determine the best solution for your situation. Be sure to tell them about any experiences you have had in the past with marijuana. Also, let them know if you have no past experience and may feel a bit apprehensive about any of these method of consuming medical cannabis.
How to Qualify for Medical Marijuana
The state of Florida implemented an organized system of qualifying and tracking medical marijuana use. It offers a system of certification for doctors to be sure they are educated on the clinical uses of marijuana. Only certified doctors can recommend marijuana treatment to their patients. These doctors are also required to develop a treatment relationship with patients for 90 days before they recommend medical marijuana. The system is designed to be sure medical marijuana is used to the best benefit of patients and is not arbitrarily distributed.
Just like doctors who have to register with the state to provide marijuana to patients, dispensaries require a special license as well. Florida reviews applications for marijuana dispensaries and issues licenses to ensure every geographical area of the state is properly served. Licensed dispensaries can only distribute medical marijuana to patients within a certain location. This helps the state keep track of marijuana distribution.
For patients in Florida, the process of obtaining medical marijuana begins with a marijuana doctor. You have to establish a relationship with a certified Florida marijuana doctor, and they ultimately determine if you qualify. Marijuana doctors are trained to follow the state’s prescribing protocols and use their medical judgment to qualify patients for cannabis use.
Florida residency is the first qualification to receive medical marijuana in the state. The second is that you are at least 18 years old. Beyond those two stipulations, it becomes a medical determination. If you have a documented diagnosis for any of the conditions listed above, you will most likely qualify.
You do not have to suffer from one of those specific disorders to legally obtain medical cannabis in Florida, though. If the cause of your symptoms is not determined, or if they have not responded to other treatments, you can still qualify. A marijuana doctor can help you understand if marijuana treatment could be helpful in your unique situation.
Once you are qualified as a marijuana patient, the doctor adds your information to the state-wide database. The database is used to follow the use of medical marijuana and document its effectiveness for various conditions. Your doctor is still bound by the confidentiality of HIPPA, and your medical information will not be released to anyone without your consent.
The information in the database is only accessible to members of the health department who need that access to do their jobs. It is also available to law enforcement, so Florida marijuana laws can be enforced. If there is any question about your right to possess cannabis, the database will prove your case.
As a registered medical marijuana patient, you will be given access to a licensed dispensary in your area where you can buy the medicinal products recommended by your marijuana doctor. Your doctor will keep the database updated with their recommendations for you, and the dispensary will also use the database to record what products they sell to you.
The Florida state marijuana database collects information mostly for the purpose of providing evidence that the state program is working as intended. It provides a central repository of information that can help regulators manage the number of doctors and dispensaries available to patients who need them. One of their goals it to be sure marijuana patients have access to the treatments they need to improve their health and quality of life.
Patient’s Guide to Medical Marijuana
It is natural to feel a little apprehensive about trying something new. You may have already tried various treatments for your condition and been disappointed by the results. It is easy to lose faith in medicine when it does not work for you.
For many patients, medical marijuana treatment holds the key to improving their condition, something that other drugs and therapies could not do. The Florida state marijuana laws are set up to protect patients and help them get the best treatment they can have with positive results. Still, these laws are relatively new and may seem a bit off-putting.
DocMJ is here to make your access to healing treatments as painless as possible. We can help you get qualified as a medical marijuana patient, put you in touch with a marijuana doctor and connect you with the most convenient licensed dispensary. We did all the research and continue to follow changes in Florida marijuana law, so you don’t have to.
To begin your journey to ultimate healing and wellness through marijuana treatment, check your eligibility with a simple online survey. By answering a few short questions, you will be on your way to meeting your new marijuana doctor who can assess your situation and make the medical cannabis recommendation that is right for you.
Dr. Glider is a board certified Internal Medicine Specialist. He received his Florida Medical Marijuana Physicians Certification in 2017 and was one of the first recommending physicians with DocMJ. In addition to medical marijuana recommendations, Dr. Glider continues to practice Internal and Geriatric Medicine in private practice. Additionally, he serves as Medical Director for a home health company, supervising and educating staff, as well as supervising an advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners for a transitional care program.
Dr. Glider graduated from the College of Osteopathic Medicine & Surgery in Des Moines, IA and completed his residency at Saddlebrook General Hospital in Saddlebrook, NJ. He has received several honors and awards throughout his professional career, including a City of Des Moines Merit Award and a Chamber of Commerce Award (Port St. Lucie, FL). Dr. Glider is an experienced and caring physician who is loved and respected by his peers and his patients.