Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana, or cannabis, is one tool among many that can help patients alleviate pain, spasticity and nausea for serious medical conditions such as brain and spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis neurodegenerative diseases, severe chronic or intractable pain and more.

Medical cannabis is becoming an increasingly accepted treatment option for patients with a variety of diagnoses thanks in part to the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Act. The Act, which was approved in 2016, provides certain patients the opportunity to obtain medical cannabis in a safe and legal way.

Several Good Shepherd physicians are approved by the Commonwealth to certify patients for medical cannabis use, and our experience thus far is consistent with research that demonstrates proper use of cannabis can be an effective way to alleviate the symptoms associated with certain conditions.

What diagnoses qualify under the Act for medical cannabis use?

It is important to understand that only certain confirmed diagnoses qualify for medical cannabis use, as set forth in the Act. Examples of qualifying conditions include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Brain and spinal cord injuries
  • Cancer
  • Spasticity and movement disorders
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Nerve pain/damage
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Terminal illness
  • Chronic pain
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Opiod use disorder

What symptoms does medical cannabis alleviate and how?

Medical cannabis has been found to help alleviate symptoms such as chronic pain, spasticity (muscle tightness), nausea, poor coping skills and altered sleep patterns. Better rest helps minimize chronic pain, which reduces the possibility of depression. Our experience thus far indicates that medical cannabis alleviates the need for more powerful pain medications, such as opioids, for many patients.

Why is Good Shepherd certifying patients for medical cannabis?

Several Good Shepherd physiatrists are approved to certify patients for medical cannabis. As physicians who are dedicated to the process of helping our patients – many of whom live with painful chronic conditions – regain function and increase independence, medical cannabis is one pharmacological tool we have available to help our patients. With its ability to minimize pain and muscle tightness, patients get more out of the physical, occupational or speech therapies needed as part of their recovery.

Can any doctor prescribe medical cannabis for me? How does the process work?

In Pennsylvania, patients with a qualifying condition must see a physician who is approved to evaluate and certify them for cannabis use. Once the patient is certified, the physician will work with the patient and the dispensary pharmacist to determine correct dosage, formulation and schedule based on the patient’s condition. Cannabis is one part of an overall treatment plan, and regular follow up with the physician is essential.

What is the difference between medical cannabis and recreational marijuana?

While their origins are the same, it is important to recognize that there is a difference between recreational marijuana and medical cannabis. Processed in a more thoughtful way, the latter is prepared by a dispensary pharmacist who is experienced in selecting the proper formulation, dosage, etc. Medical cannabis is considered more effective and safer than what is used recreationally. It also is important to understand that there are different varieties of medical cannabis that are administered based on the patient’s diagnosis and symptoms.

What are the side effects of using medical cannabis?

Like any medication, every patient responds differently to medical cannabis. There are many issues to consider in medical cannabis use, including how it affects the patient’s social life, performance at work, school, etc. This is one reason that oversight by an approved physician is crucial. In some patients, medical cannabis can cause dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, dry or red eyes, heart and blood pressure problems, lung problems, impaired mental functioning, headache, dizziness, numbness, panic reactions, hallucinations, flashbacks, depression and sexual problems.

Where can I get additional information?

For more information about medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, call Good Shepherd Rehabilitation at 1.888.44.REHAB (73422), visit the Pennsylvania website or fill out the form below.

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