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  • Post Time Posted April 17, 2019
Like any prescribed medication, the therapeutic indications of cannabis are limited and have the potential for adverse effects if used improperly or abused. Current Health Canada standards do not recommend prescribing medical cannabis as a first-line treatment option for any condition. Medical cannabis may be prescribed as an adjunctive treatment of symptoms for those adults who have tried and failed multiple trials of commonly prescribed medications. The role of medical cannabis as an adjunctive treatment for adults with complex and multiple medical and/or psychiatric conditions may be appropriate if there are no contraindications.

As per Health Canada guidelines, prescription pharmaceutical-grade synthetic cannabinoids such as Nabilone and Nabiximols are approved and indicated for severe nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Flower cannabis and concentrated oils have a role in treating conditions such as HIV/AIDS-associated weight loss and disease-associated mood and insomnia, Multiple Sclerosis-associated pain and spasticity, neuropathic pain, and gastrointestinal conditions (i.e. Crohn’s disease). However, the clinical trials where benefits were observed from using plant-based medical cannabis were small and short-term; nowhere near as extensively studied as pharmaceutical-grade synthetic cannabinoids.

It is important to keep in mind that, until more comprehensive research is done, we cannot assume the benefits of medical cannabis are absolutely certain. Though serious and fatal adverse effects related directly to medical cannabis are rare, precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of the user. Patient safety must not be compromised due to the known common side effects of medical cannabis and/or interactions with other medications and/or non-pharmaceutical treatment modalities (i.e. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy machines, pacemakers, and assistive equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, etc).

Patients and physicians must work together to elicit a thorough medical and medication treatment history and physical examination to determine if medical cannabis is right for the patient. Still considered a new class of medication, plant-derived medical cannabis needs more high-quality and large-scale clinical studies, as which has been done with other pharmaceutical medications. The emergence of scientific research into the benefits of medical cannabis will help to determine the safety profile and expanded indications for the use of cannabinoids as a therapeutic agent in the future. Medical cannabis is not a "cure-all," rather it is another adjunctive treatment option for adults to provide relief from certain symptoms associated with medical conditions.

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