Medical Cannabis and Palliative Care

Seniors account for the fastest growing age group in Canada. It is expected by 2020 that 40% more deaths will occur. According to Canabo Medical Clinic, countries such as Canada are bracing for an expansion of the number of patients with catastrophic and chronic illnesses. Presently, cancer is the number-one cause of death in Canada, followed by heart disease and stroke, where these numbers are only expected to rise. Quality of life during this stage is at the heart of palliative care. As the numbers increase of those living with chronic illness, so too will the number of people who require palliative care.

Many palliative care patients experience intense pain. For example, the end stages of cancer could be severely painful for a patient. The goal of palliative care is to alleviate pain and improve the quality of life as the patient approaches end of life. With the legalization of marijuana passing in October of 2018, the role of cannabis in palliative care became more prominent in discussion, causing many to consider medical cannabis as a potential option for pain management in palliative care.

As cannabis begins to peak discussion as an alternative to other pain treatments, the studies on THC and CBD suggest they could be extremely effective to alleviate chronic pain and improve quality of life. Some studies have suggested that cannabis could be administered to patients in palliative care as a pain treatment. One study of 1,000 patients found a significant reduction in the pain they experienced (Canabo Medical Clinic).

BC Cancer shares that most recent research supports the use of medical cannabis to help manage the following symptoms for some people:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

The effects of medical cannabis seem to include improved appetite, taste changes that make food more pleasurable, a reduction of nausea and vomiting, and potential relief from the symptoms of depression. Overall, patients using medical cannabis generally reported their quality of life improved (Canabo Medical Clinic).

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