Webinar Tackles Challenges, Concerns, Benefits of Medical Cannabis

June 17, 2019


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As medical cannabis use becomes more popular and prevalent in the United States, post-acute and long-term care (PALTC) facilities and practitioners can expect to encounter questions, concerns, demands, and controversy. Yet, as the evidence grows about medical cannabis’ benefits for certain indications—and more and more patients and families request this intervention—physicians, nurse practitioners, physical assistants, and others need information and answers.

They will get these and more during a June 26 Society webinar, Integration of Medical Marijuana in Long-Term Care: Positives and Pitfalls. “We’ll look at what are thought to be the indications for this intervention, the data behind this, the benefits, and the burdens,” says Kimberly A. Curseen, MD, FAAHPM.

Dr. Curseen and her co-presenter, Ali-John Zarrabi, will help webinar participants take a “thoughtful approach” to successfully establishing and maintaining a medical cannabis program. Dr. Curseen says, “There are many questions you need to consider in advance. For instance, how will you counsel patients and families regarding medical cannabis use? Will the patient or family members administer the medical cannabis? How and where will it be stored and kept secure? How will you handle employees who feel that using medical cannabis is morally wrong? How do you calculate and address the legal risk?”

A growing number of states are making laws to decriminalize how facilities handle medical cannabis. However, these laws often are unclear and leave facilities with questions and concerns. “This is a great time for collaboration between stakeholders in states to lobby for clear guidance in their laws,” Dr. Curseen observes. She hopes to help webinar participants understand how they can have greater confidence about using medical cannabis safely and within the legal parameters of their jurisdictions.

There is much anecdotal evidence and a slowly growing body of research documenting the benefits of medical cannabis for symptom management related to pain, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety, and multiple sclerosis. However, there are still questions and uncertainties. Nonetheless, Dr. Curseen stresses, “Lack of evidence for efficacy doesn’t mean there isn’t efficacy. We are behind on the research, and we need to catch up. And we need to be mindful that medical cannabis does have drug interactions and side effect risks. Medical cannabis could be revolutionary, but we just don’t know that yet.”

In the meantime, practitioners and patients are seeing positive results, and a growing number of patients and families are requesting or even demanding this intervention. Dr. Curseen further notes, “We will help webinar participants understand from patients’ perspective why they are desperate to have access to medical cannabis. While this is a medical question, the language around it is one of faith [and] belief. If you can’t offer this intervention, you can’t expect a blanket ‘no’ to satisfy them.”

In fact, a growing number of patients are lauding the benefits of medical cannabis. Dr. Curseen notes, “There are tons of success stories, many of them about people getting off opioids therapy—which is huge.” Elsewhere, patients are reporting better quality of life, better pain control, some appetite improvement, enhanced quality of sleep, and more. The biggest side effect, she said, is that “patients feel tired.”

Dr. Curseen hopes that participants will bring their questions and concerns about medical cannabis, as well as their best practices, for a robust, interactive learning experience. Practitioners with experience using medical cannabis, as well as those starting at ground zero, will gain insights, pearls of wisdom, and ideas that will increase their knowledge, abilities, and confidence moving forward.

Click here for more information or to register. As always, the webinar is free for Society members and CMD, MOC, and CME credits are available.