July 25, 2024


Appreciate your health

Will the U.S. Ever Implement Medical Guidelines for Cannabis?

Medical cannabis continues its struggle to gain widespread acceptance throughout the U.S. healthcare system. While there are plenty of clinicians on board with it, the wider industry is not. We still see plenty of pushback from healthcare groups, professional organizations, insurance companies, and regulators. It is enough to make one wonder if the U.S. will ever implement medical cannabis guidelines.

The idea of developing clinical guidelines for medical cannabis is neither new nor pulled from thin air. Other countries have already gone down that road. Canada is one of the more recent among them. Canadian clinicians now have official access to clinical guidelines dictating best practices for recommending cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain.

Chronic Pain a Real Issue

It is estimated that 30% of people worldwide live with chronic pain of some description. Of that group, some 60% report their pain as either moderate or severe. Pain can be debilitating in the most severe cases. Unfortunately, pain can also be a contributing factor in other conditions like depression and anxiety.

Ignoring chronic pain is a bad idea. So is assuming that prescription painkillers are the best way to treat it. Patients respond differently to both the pain experience and clinical attempts to relieve it. In simple English, not everybody experiences pain the same way. And because of that, not everybody finds relief with the same treatments.

This reality, combined with a general reluctance within our healthcare system to embrace medical cannabis as a pain treatment, has stifled any attempts to come up with official clinical guidelines. As things currently stand, chronic pain patients and their doctors work together to figure up how to use medical cannabis. It is often a trial-and-error exercise that takes time to master.

The Number One Complaint Among Patients

If the U.S. healthcare system needs a reason to develop clinical guidelines, it need look no further than the data explaining who uses medical cannabis and why. Treating chronic pain continually tops the list of reasons for using cannabis as a medicine. It is consistently the number one complaint among patients seeking to get medical cannabis cards.

Utahmarijuana.org is a Utah organization that helps patients in the Beehive State obtain their cards. They confirm the fact that many patients use medical marijuana for chronic pain in their state. The majority of card holders in Utah are pain sufferers. They are followed by PTSD and cancer patients.

Interestingly enough, Canada is in a similar position. The majority of medical cannabis users in Canada are patients dealing with pain. But it turns out that the Canadian healthcare system did not base all its clinical recommendations on chronic pain alone. The guidelines also address:

  • Pain with HIV
  • Multiple sclerosis and associated pain
  • Arthritis pain
  • Pain with fibromyalgia
  • Headache and migraine pain
  • Chronic pain with nausea
  • Chronic pain with sleep issues.

This is just a brief list. Canada’s clinical guidelines touch just about every area in which pain is either the primary condition or a contributing symptom of another condition. The Canadian healthcare system has gone to great length to ensure that clinicians know the best practices for recommending cannabis to pain patients.

Why Guidelines Are Necessary

Canada is to be commended for coming up with clinical guidelines for medical cannabis. Guidelines are important because they provide a baseline that helps patients and clinicians better understand cannabis efficacy. With greater understanding comes a better knowledge of how to use cannabis as a medicine. We will never get there in the U.S. if we continue to rely on our hit-and-miss approach to medical cannabis consumption.