Are you or a loved one living with a terminal illness and are or will soon be residing in a palliative care facility? Have you thought about, or even heard of, using cannabis products for symptom management? Did you know that cannabis has been used for several illnesses dating back to ancient times? However, the use of cannabis, all but dwindled within the medical community, courtesy of social and legal fears of substance abuse. With emerging evidence of medical cannabis relieving numerous symptoms, it’s no surprise that interest has again peaked in the use of medicinal cannabis and its benefits for symptom relief.

About Cannabis And Palliative Care

In a palliative care environment, some patient symptoms can be hard to treat using only the treatment measures available. Early clinical data, along with anecdotal reports, have even proven that cannabinoids may be a promising pharmacologic option in the management of pain for this group of patients.

Cannabinoids are natural chemicals obtained from the cannabis plant, or they can be manufactured synthetically. They engage with cannabinoid receptors, or they share chemical sameness with endocannabinoids or both. In palliative care medicine, some cancer symptoms may be modulated via cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Some symptoms that can be relieved include:

  • Pain
  • Mood
  • Appetite
  • Sleep disorders
  • Nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy

Opioids are generally prescribed for symptom relief. However, they overlap with cannabinoid receptors’ neuroanatomical receptor distribution, mainly at the dorsal striatum, dorsal horn, and locus coeruleus. Cannabis also has a favorable safety profile compared to opioids, which can help with chronic pain. Cannabidiol (CBD) is touted for its anti-inflammatory attributes. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a psychoactive substance that aids with insomnia and mood swings. Nabiximols (Sativex), a combination of CBD and THC, is FDA approved for epilepsy and some multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Unpleasant side effects and poor symptom control have been attributed to opioids and other medications that have encouraged the search for alternative therapeutic methods, like cannabinoid-based medicines (CBM). These medications include approved pharmaceutical cannabinoids, such as:

  • Nabilone (Cesamet)
  • Nabiximols (Sativex
  • Dronabinol (Marinol—except for Canada)
  • Medical Cannabis products (dried flowers, edibles, oils)

What is Palliative Care?

The goal of Palliative care is to enhance the quality of life for those patients living with incurable or terminal illness. Medical cannabis (MC) is and has been utilized in palliative care to treat numerous symptoms in terminally ill patients.

In the context of the aging population, the demand for palliative care is rapidly increasing. Generally, people suffering from terminal illnesses go through substantial symptoms and discomfort that oftentimes gets worse over time. Many patients complain of eight to twelve symptoms, with the most common being:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Dyspnea
  • Anorexia
  • Cachexia
  • Depression

Additionally, quick societal evolution in attitudes related to the use of cannabis and CBD therapy for chronic pain has increased globally.

  • In America, 33 states have legalized prescription-based medicinal cannabis for a plethora of medical conditions.
  • Medical Cannabis in Canada has been legalized since 2001.
  • The European Union (EU) has declared that medical cannabis must be made available for each EU citizen over the course of the next 4 years.

Cannabis As Part Of Palliative Care

When integrating medical cannabis as a supplement to treatment, every patient should first undergo a risk-benefit conversation, as well as a comprehensive assessment prior to any cannabis-based intervention.

Throughout America, medical cannabis is progressively replacing mind-muddling pharmaceuticals in an effort to enable patients the opportunity to live their final days pain free and relaxed, while still being able to interact with family and loved ones coherently and consciously.

The usefulness of cannabis in senior care and palliative environments is supported in a study published by PubMed, the National Library of Medicine. A combined 310 palliative care specialists from 40 states, consisting of administrators, nurses, and physicians, answered a survey on practice, experience, and opinions regarding medicinal cannabis. This was also the biggest survey, nationally, to date on this particular topic. Of the respondents, a whopping 91% suggested support for utilizing medical cannabis for hospice patients.

Conclusion

If you would like to learn more about medical cannabis for palliative care, fill out the form below. We can provide you with the answers you need, and help you along in your journey. We look forward to working with you.

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