Patient Basics For Utilizing Medical Cannabis
~The following information is intended for adults, and card holding medical cannabis patients. This information is intended to assist those that may be interested in legally medicating with cannabis per their specific state laws.
Cannabis is quickly becoming one of the mainstream ways to medicate on a more natural path. Especially for chronically and critically ill patients. The ways to medicate with cannabis and its derivatives are almost endless. We have a much larger amount of information available to us from doctors, patients, and those who choose to document, study, and follow patient use. Science is now able to step in and make a case for this miraculous plant.
Especially now that 36 states, and the D.C. have already approved of medical cannabis in some form. 12 have CBD only laws, and 16 also allow for recreational use by adults of legal age. So if you live in one of the 6 states that prohibit all forms of cannabis use, I’m sorry. It will come. Hopefully more sooner than later.
First off, unless you live in a legal recreational state like Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont, Montana, South Dakota, New Jersey, or the District of Columbia, which allow for recreational use, you need to get your medical cannabis recommendation and certification per your states laws. If you live in Michigan and are interested in being a card holder, be sure to check out my blog post on getting you medical cannabis card here in my home state of Michigan.
As always, keep your meds in a locked, secure place away from access to children and pets. We wouldn’t want little Johnny, or our family pet getting into our canna-medicine. The worst case scenario may be heavy sleep and drooling for a couple of days straight. But still the same, these are medicines and should be protected and treated as so, in a responsible manner. Keep your edibles out of the reach of children and pets. I have heard of patients who live alone, so they had no worries about having their edible at their bed or chair side. Next thing you know, the yummy treat is gone and your dog can only wag it’s tail, drool, and may be sleeping hard. Very hard. They may experience nausea and vomiting. Nobody wants to see their family pet feel like this. So please, keep your treats out of reach. Our furry friends do much better when they have cannabis infused pet treats that are specifically dosed for their smaller bodies. But that is another blog post.
In this simple guide, our primary goal is to educate patients and caregivers to better understand the many different routes of administration available when using cannabis medicinally. This way you can make the correct decisions about the products you might want to try or purchase as you experiment medicinally with cannabis.
Studies have proven that cannabis has therapeutic properties that can not be induced by prescribed medications. It has far fewer severe side effects than most commonly prescribed opiates, and other drugs, including over the counter medications
Many people are familiar with cannabis flower. Smoking is by far the most well known way to medicate. I enjoy smoking most any day, but now there are countless ways to reap the benefits of the cannabis plant. Many options, sometimes healthier, are available to patients and will be reviewed throughout this blog post. Just like any medication, each route of administration when consuming cannabis has its own acquired results. These optional ways of medicating can also carry other possible side effects. This is especially true for patients without any previous cannabis use experiences. After a patient finds adequate relief and chooses to continue to use cannabis medicinally for their medical needs, most develop a tolerance to many of the initial side effects that many patients might experience.
Smoking Medicinal Cannabis
Medical cannabis patients can choose from a wide variety of water bongs, bowls, pipes or rolling papers. Just place a small amount of dried flower into your personal choice, hold a flame to your flower until it combusts, and inhale. You really don’t need to “hold it in” to experience instant results. Wait a few minutes. If you are happy with your relief, stop. If you don’t feel enough of the desired effect, take another hit or two. Smoking cannabis offers immediate relief to patients. It is pretty easy to figure out your limits, affordable, and versatile. Patients that are dealing with emphysema, lung cancer, or any other pulmonary damage may want to look into the many smokeless ways to medicate. Current studies are showing contradictory conclusions as to what extent smoking cannabis damages the lungs, if at all. Combustion of any substance can be irritating or make it harder to breathe. The biggest downside in my opinion is the smell of cannabis on your clothes.
Vaporizing Medical Cannabis
Vaporizers are a healthy way to combust cannabis flower or oils. Appliances such as the “Volcano” are favorites among flower consumers. Preheat your vaporizer to the recommended temperature on your machine. Place a small amount of cannabis flower inside, press the button, and inhale. The flower is heated to a temperature lower than the combustion point, but hot enough to release the plants medicinal properties.
There are a wide variety of products for all of your vaping needs. From the at home Volcano unit, to hand held, pocket size pens. Like smoking cannabis, you achieve immediate relief. Because you remain below the point of combustion, it is less harsh on the lungs. Vaping is not as aromatic as smoking. Sometimes, it can even smell very pleasant. When it comes to vaping, there are many options for patients. From oil, concentrates, and flower; to the price and size, you should be able to find something that is the right fit for you. When it comes to the inhale while vaping, start with a very light draw or “hit.” Vaping inhales can sometimes be a bit stronger. As with smoking, wait a few minutes to see how you feel. If you have not reached your desired effect, take another hit or “toke.”
Medical Cannabis Sub-lingual Sprays or Tinctures
Another smokeless way to medicate is using tinctures or sub-lingual sprays. You will find these pictured in the blog’s featured photo. Cannabis cannabinoids and terpenes are combined with a glycerin solution, alcohol, or oil (MCT or Medium-Chain Triglyceride) such as coconut or olive oil to deliver relief without smoking anything at all. Using this route, the medicine is absorbed through the mucosa tissue in the oral cavity, and also through digestion. Unlike smoking or vaping, there is positively no harm to the lungs when using tinctures or sprays. This is a preferred method for children and the elderly due to the easily controlled dosage and mild taste. Usually these take effect faster than edibles, but not immediate relief as with inhalation. Always start smaller on the recommended dosing guidelines until you see how the medicine will affect you. Many dosage recommendations call for a dropperful or two as needed. After this, you can gradually increase your dosage as needed. Tinctures and sprays can be a bit pricey to purchase on a regular basis. For long term use, learning to make your own can be well worth the time and effort. I find quick relief from adding my tinctures to my favorite hot teas.
Transdermal Medical Cannabis Patches
If patients want simple pain relief without smoking or the possible mess of balms, lotions and salves, this is an easy, discreet way to feel better. Many patches are dosed around 10-20mg. Simply apply the patch to a clean, dry area free of hair. Preferably adhered on the inner wrist area, ankle, or the top of the foot. Patches come in a variety of dosages and formulations that can range from very mild, up to reaching that stronger high you are trying to achieve. Patients that have an allergic reaction to adhesives will want to try another form of topical pain relief. As with all medicines applied to the skin via patch, patients can developer an allergic reaction. If this occurs, stop use immediately.
Medical Cannabis Topicals
Salves, balms, lotions, ointments, roll-ons, and sprays are some of my favorite ways to control joint, muscle pain, and spasms. There are no psychoactive effects from medicating with topicals. They are great for rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, eczema, muscle pain and soreness, bursitis, small burns, sunburns, inflamed and swelled joint pain, healing surgical sites, and even erotic sexual lubricants and enhancers. This route of application directly addresses skin issues and localized pain relief. Some patients say that some products just do not work for pain relief. I too have experienced this. I can say that as many as I have used that just turned out to be really great moisturizer, I have also found superior, immediate, and almost unbelievable pain relief with even more wonderful cannabis products. Right now I am in love with a roll on out of Oregon. It packs more relief for my back than any opiate has. It would be hard to overdo it with a cannabis topical, but if you experience any irritation or rash discontinue use and perhaps try something else. As I mentioned earlier, topicals don’t get you “buzzed.” This is more for skin issues and pain relief. If you’re looking for something stronger that needs to address cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, or anxiety, you will want to investigate other options of medicating that are mentioned throughout this post. Try to shop around and find a topical that addresses your specific needs.
Ingesting Fresh Cannabis
Ingesting the raw leaves and or buds of the cannabis plant has many medicinal properties. You simply ingest the raw cannabis by juicing or adding it to your smoothies. Raw leaves and buds contain high amounts of THC-A, the acid form of THC. It is not psychoactive, but many practitioners and patients believe that raw cannabis has other special, unique medicinal attributes. Some believe that when the plant is dried or heated, it loses many of its healing properties. Some patients with chronic gastrointestinal diseases that do not respond well to many treatments find relief with juicing raw cannabis. I have seen juicing advocates recommend ingesting 15 leaves or 2 large buds a day. To do this, you obviously need a large amount of plant material. The other downside is the taste. I honestly prefer a smoothie over straight juicing any day, solely because of the taste. But if you juice, fill, and freeze ice cube trays with your fresh cannabis, can be conveniently added to smoothies to help tone down the stronger plant flavor quite a bit. There are not many documented studies that I have seen, but patient testimony is overwhelming.
Cannabis Oil (AKA as Rick Simpson Oil, or FECO)
Cannabis oil is full of cannabinoids and has many healthy benefits. The extract from the cannabis plant has many anti-inflammatory properties, can be used to treat seizure and spasmodic disorders, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Many patients have found success using oil and prefer to use it for the treatment of their cancer. Cannabinoids are both anti-proliferative and antiangiogenic. It is also anti-metastic due to decreasing cancer cell migration. Cannabis oil induces cell death of cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. This is called apoptosis. While dosing recommendations can vary along with the tolerance level of every patient, I will share the common guidelines to get started with medical cannabis treatment. As always, do your own research. **My advise is to start lower than recommendations. I advise beginners to take a toothpick and touch it to your oil. That tiny ball of oil is your first dose, gradually increasing up from there. Also, not everyone needs this amount of treatment dose, or maintenance dose. Depending on your tolerance level, it may take you a bit to get up to common dose amounts. Everyone is different and these are only guidelines.
*Cannabis Oil Treatment Guideline Suggestions~This is considered an alternative cancer treatment by today’s standards. The goal is to try to consume 60 grams in 90 days. Most patients can finish the treatment in this time period. As always, doses should calibrated to each individual patient’s needs.
**The guideline below can be too much for many patients that have never consumed cannabis. I recommend that the first dose be very small. Barely touch the tip of a toothpick to your oil. That micro-dollop is going to be your first dose. The, gradually increase your size from there. Soon, you will be at the recommended dose of a half a grain of rice, and can follow the guidelines from there.**
- Week 1- Start with around 3 doses+ daily if it can be tolerated, about a half the size of a small grain of rice. As you take it you will build up a tolerance.
- Weeks 2-5- At week 2, you will try to double your intake every 4 days.
- Weeks 5-12- You now may be up to consuming a gram a day. Ingest a gram a day until your 60 gram supply is finished.
- Many prefer to remain on a micro-dose maintenance schedule for life.
It is very important to have clean, high quality, and preferably, tested oil. Please make sure that as a patient or caregiver, your meds are safe!
Many patients feel “medicine head,” sleepy, or a bit “buzzed” initially. These are some of the possible initial side effects of the oil. Compared to most pharma meds, this can be a healthier option, with fewer negative health concerns associated with side effects. Many sick patients need more sleep, so this is good. I usually take my oil before bed to ensure a good nights sleep, while not having to worry about staying wide awake. Once you develop a tolerance, you may even want to microdose during the day. I rarely feel anything after medicating with oil now. Unless I have have a different type, a higher dose, or different strain of oil, I feel no side effects.
Cannabis suppositories are inserted into the rectum, where it absorbs through the colon. This is a good option for those with cancers of the colon, rectum, prostate, cervix, and ovaries. It is fast acting, and administers long lasting relief. Cannabis extract or oil can be mixed with coconut oil, put into suppository molds, and refrigerated for storage until patient use. Suppositories come in different sizes. For adults, a 2g dose is adequate. For children there is a 1g dose. This is a controversial route for some, but again, many chronically ill patients have found relief and success. Gloves can be used to administer. Lie down on your side and insert the suppository about an inch and a half. Squeeze your sphincter muscles and hold for a few minutes in that position. Get up, dispose of your gloves, wash those hands and repeat as needed. The down side is obviously administration. It can be difficult for some patients to apply, and embarrassing for those that may need assistance.
Cannabis Infused Beverages
Infused beverages are available in teas, juices, smoothies, and sodas. They are a variety of cannabis infused powders that can be added to water, or your favorite beverage. You can also make your own beverages by adding tinctures or oil to your favorite drinks. You can even add a small amount of bud, or wax to your favorite tea along with the bag. Be sure to let it steep a bit. Adding cannabis to your regular cup of tea tastes much better than just cannabis. I personally love tinctures added into in my peppermint green tea. It is a pleasant flavor and can give you intense relief. Great before bed to ensure a restful nights sleep. Beverages can offer long-lasting relief, but can take 20 minutes to a couple of hours to kick in. Infused drinks can be hard to dose. To be safe, start with a few sips and wait an hour so see how you feel. If you need more of the desired effect, go ahead and have some more. If you pass out in the Lazy-Boy before your favorite show begins, try less the next go around until you see what is right for you. Many beverages are made for specific needs such as sleep, energy, stress, or anxiety relief. This is another good alternative to smoking cannabis that can pack the pain relieving punch that you’re looking for. Beverages, like edibles, produce a different kind of high than smoking. As always, with dosing, start small and work your way up to your desired effect.
Cannabis Infused Edibles
The days of the old school, pot brownies are over. Who knows how much THC were in those things? Now the wide world of edibles can literally include whatever you’d like. A tasty treat while you medicate. Medibles that you can find include various gummies, rice crispy treats, cookies, hard candies, cakes, brownies, chocolates, toffees, syrups, chocolate syrups, peanut butter, coffee, you name it. You can most likely find it at your local market, dispensary, your caregiver, or eventually make it yourself. The best part about edibles is that you can easily learn how to make them in the comfort of your own home. Now patients make entire cannabis infused meals. I prefer to use cannabis butter and oils to whip up my own favorite recipes, just by substituting the infused cannabis products. Buttered garlic bread, banana, zucchini, and pumpkin breads are my favorite at home infused goodies to prevent my migraines. Great choices for someone who doesn’t care for, or cannot have too much sugar in their diet due to health conditions or personal choice.
For quality control, I recommend making an appointment with your local trusted lab to drop off some samples of your product for testing. At least initially, to have it tested for potency and to make sure it is of adequate medicinal quality. Free of molds or pesticides. After this, you will be able to figure out your dosing easier as well. This is a very popular way to medicate, especially with children and elderly patients. A great thing about edibles is that you can be very dose specific, especially with pre-packaged medicinals. On the other hand, it can be hard to figure out the actual dose for the patient, especially if they have made it themselves. Edibles can also be tricky because they can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours to be felt. This leaves many patients wanting to eat another dose because they weren’t feeling anything shortly after it was consumed. Patience grasshopper. Slow your roll. You don’t want to be over medicated. Yes, there is such a thing, especially when consumers are not aware of the huge difference a body buzz from edibles can deliver. Go slow. You don’t want to be sleeping for an entire day if you’re not planning on it.
Edibles can provide long lasting relief and are another great alternative to inhalation. Dosages vary widely like all medications. Weight, tolerance, pre-existing conditions, metabolism, and experience, along with other factors can all influence how a patient may or may not respond to cannabis medicinals. It is recommended to always start small. Possibly as small as 2mg or less initially. Wait at least an hour before consuming more until you understand how cannabis edibles will affect you and how you can achieve your desired results.
Concentrated Cannabis Dabbing
A dab is a cannabis concentrate that you heat to a high temperature and inhale. These include but are not limited to; shatter, wax, oil, budder, and hash oil, I DO NOT RECOMMEND DABBING FOR PATIENTS NEW TO CANNABIS, OR WITH A LOW TOLERANCE TO MEDICATIONS. Dabbing provides instant relief for patients. Concentrates can contain up to 90% THC+, so you will be getting a very high dose of psychoactive compounds very quickly. There a variety of ways to administer concentrates. Many times they include a torch and a rig. Rigs can come in all shapes, sizes, and all sorts of glass do-dads to add on for your personal dabbing needs. These are great for at home use. When I travel, I love my rechargeable Cloud V rig. It isn’t too messy and it’s great for on the go. The battery lasts a bit if you are not using it constantly. My favorite way to “dab” is using a nectar collector and a torch. These too come in all shapes and sizes. This is an easier way to have a “baby” dab because you don’t need to have a glob every time you inhale. It is a more controlled option in my opinion. It does not tend to have a cannabis flower smell like when you smoke a joint, and can actually be quite aromatic. It is ideal for urgently needed and high amounts of pain control. I found more relief in medicating with cannabis concentrates than any of my pharma pain meds as I recovered from almost a dozen different surgeries throughout my cancer treatment. It was my preferred method of medicating when I had the most acute pain.
What I have learned about dabbing is that you want to be sure it is clean and free of any solvents that may be used during extraction. Otherwise you risk the chance that the solvent may not have been removed correctly. Anytime there is a flame involved you need to remember to keep safety first. I don’t recommend dabbing in bed over your favorite fuzzy blanket. You may be asking for trouble. The biggest thing I can advise you about a first dab is to not hit it like you would your average bong. Have a seat first. Go light……even if you think it tastes so good, and is so smooth that you just want to take that huge monster drag. 🛑 STOP. Take a small inhale until you see if it is right for you. If you are feeling pleasant, enjoy the moment and don’t dab again right away. Many patients agree with the old saying “a little dab will do ya.” You don’t want to get dabbed out. Everything in moderation my friends. Like most meds, you can develop a tolerance over time. This is not a recommended way to medicate for children or the elderly. Unless grandpa or grandma are old school experienced smokers and have assistance with the flame. Then, by all means, dab away!
Medicated inhalers were a quick favorite of mine. Basically, it is exactly what you are thinking. Cannabis doses are delivered in metered puffs to the patient. Inhalers come in many strains that can be specific to your medicinal needs. Cannabis inhalers produce a strong, immediate effect for users. Much like a dab, most inhalers are not for the inexperienced cannabis consumer. I recommend sitting down before you try a puff. Do not take a large inhale until you have already felt the effects, and know how it will make you feel. I have personally witnessed an experienced patient take a huge inhale on his initial puff, against my recommendation. Unfortunately, he lost consciousness for a quick moment. Then he was back laughing it off. I had never witnessed this before, and haven’t since. Please remember to practice moderation. We are medicating, not trying to win a contest. These inhalers are ideal for medicating in nonsmoking areas when you need immediate relief from pain, PTSD symptoms, and anxiety. Inhalers may seem a bit pricey, but when you get 100+ doses of medicine that can last over 2 years, I can tell you that they are well worth the investment. As with all medicines, keep your canna inhaler secure, and labeled in some way. In an emergency situation where you may need a bronchodilator, you don’t want to have emergency personnel giving you a canna inhaler when you critically need another medicine.
When patients are suffering from chronic conditions and ailments, they deserve to have the most up to date information from a reliable source available to them. Here at First Light, we are dedicated to improving the lives of patients through health conscious choices and well informed decisions. The information you find here is provided for legal medical cannabis patients trying to better their health with homeopathic, integrative, and alternative medicines. Cannabis and its unique healing qualities leave so much for us to discover, due to the fact that we are lacking research that is released to the general public. (This is because of the ridiculous scheduling of cannabis at this time.)
The information provided is not intended to diagnose, or be taken as medical advise, and I recommend that every patient work with their practitioner when at all possible. This information was collected through my personal medicating experiences, other patients personal accounts, and doctor recommendations. It is intended to help you be well informed when you medicate, without all of the guess work involved.
Medical cannabis is not the right fit for every patient all of the time, but we would like to help you discover the freedom you can experience from leaving your pains behind you just by utilizing the right routes of administration with this ancient medicinal herb.
As always, start low, and go slow.
Wishing you all the best in health and happiness.