Cannabis 101: Everything You Need to Know About Medical Cannabis
For the longest time, it was the thing no one talked about and it’s quickly become the thing everyone is talking about. For a lot of us, it can feel impossible to sort through all of the
information, just to get to the facts.
What Is Medical Cannabis?
Medical cannabis is prescribed by health care practitioners to treat certain symptoms related to a heath condition, for example nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy; pain and muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis; chronic non-cancer pain (mainly neuropathic); severe refractory cancer-associated pain and symptoms encountered in the palliative/end-of-life care setting.
Cannabis can be smoked, vaporized, taken orally, sublingually (under the tongue), and topically (on the skin).
THC vs. CBD
Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical substances and over 100 of these are known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoid receptors can be found in most tissues and organs. They are especially numerous in the brain and nervous system. Cannabinoid receptors help regulate many bodily functions including brain and nervous system activity, digestion, inflammation, perception of pain and wake/sleep cycle.
The two most common cannabinoids are THC and CBD.
THC stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and is the euphoria-inducing compound from the cannabis plant that strongly binds to receptors in the brain. THC has some therapeutic effects but can also have harmful effects. The higher the TCH strength, the greater the chance of harmful effects. The temporary side effects of THC can include euphoria, fatigue, reduced or increased anxiety, disturbed memory, dry mouth and nausea.
CBD stands for Cannabidiol. It is minimally psychoactive and does not produce the euphoric effects that THC does. Furthermore, CBD has also been shown to attenuate some of the adverse psychoactive effects of THC that some patients experience, including auditory and visual hallucinations.
Cannabis may interact with several drugs, such as drugs that slow down the central nervous system, blood thinners and certain anti-depressants. Make sure to talk to your health practitioner about this!
FYI: Your Cannabis May Be Covered!
Cannabis is an eligible medical expense under Revenue Canada’s Medical Expense Tax Credit. You can claim expenses related to medical cannabis on your tax return, as long as you have receipts from an approved Health Canada-licensed producer and medical authorization to back up your claim.
You may also be eligible for coverage under your benefits plan. Employers with certain group benefits plans have the option to add medical cannabis to their benefits. If your employer has added it, you may be able to recover the cost of your medical cannabis if you have one of the health conditions for which the insurer approves coverage. To find out what plans, unions, and health spending accounts cover medical cannabis, visit this Cannabis Coverage page.
The potential therapeutic and adverse effects associated with cannabis use may vary depending on the amount of cannabis used and the concentration of cannabinoids in the product, the frequency of use, the person’s age and medical conditions, previous experience with cannabis or cannabinoids, and the use of other prescription or non-prescription drugs. Always consult a health practitioner for information on medicinal cannabis.