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The Comforting Role of Medical Cannabis in Palliative Care

Aug 17th 2023

The Comforting Role of Medical Cannabis in Palliative Care

Navigating Palliative Care with the Aid of Medical Cannabis

According to the Mayo Clinic, Palliative Care is a specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. It also can help you cope with side effects from medical treatments. The availability of palliative care does not depend on whether your condition can be cured.

In the realm of healthcare, few moments are as profound as those shared in palliative care. At Compassionate Clinics of America, we recognize the importance of providing holistic and supportive solutions during this crucial phase of one’s life. Through extensive research and patient experiences, we’ve come to understand the remarkable benefits that cannabis can offer in enhancing the quality of life for those in palliative care.

In this article, we will discuss palliative care, and summarize some of the research that has gone into how getting a medical cannabis card during palliative care can enhance the overall goals of the palliative care approach.

Medical Cannabis in Palliative Care

What is Palliative Care?

People often confuse palliative care with end-of-life care. Palliative care and end-of-life care are related but distinct approaches to providing comprehensive support and comfort to individuals with serious illnesses, yet they have different focuses and timing.

Palliative care is a holistic approach to care that is aimed at providing relief from the multiple symptoms, pain, and stress associated with serious illnesses. It can be provided at any stage of a serious illness, not just at the end of life. The primary focus is to enhance the overall well-being of palliative care patients and their families by addressing physical, emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual needs.

End-of-life care, also known as hospice care, is a specialized form of care that is provided when a patient is in the final stages of a terminal or incurable illness and is no longer pursuing curative treatments. The primary focus of end-of-life care is to ensure that patients experience a comfortable and dignified transition at the end of their lives, enhancing quality of life during a very vulnerable time. This type of care involves pain management, symptom relief, emotional and psychological support, spiritual guidance, and assistance for both the patient and their family members.

Cannabis-based medicines can play an important role within palliative care services as well as in end-of-life settings, however, this article will focus specifically on palliative care.

The Transformative Power of Medical Cannabis in Palliative Medicine

Palliative care is all about providing comfort, alleviating pain, and improving the overall well-being of patients as they experience chronic illness. In recent years, cannabis has emerged as a potential ally in this pursuit of supportive care, supported by high-quality evidence, offering a unique combination of physical and psychological relief.

Pain Management

One of the most common goals of palliative care is pain management, with many pieces of academic literature investigating how cannabis affects pain.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management investigated the efficacy of medical cannabis use in alleviating pain among patients with advanced cancer. The results revealed a significant reduction in pain intensity among the target population of participants who were administered medical cannabis. This study confirms what we already know at Compassionate Clinics of America: Medical cannabis can play a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for individuals in palliative care by effectively addressing the often-debilitating pain associated with serious illnesses, significantly reducing suffering associated with chronic conditions.

Another 2018 study featured in the European Journal of Internal Medicine explored the benefits of medical cannabis for pain reduction in patients in a palliative care setting. The research indicated that medical cannabis products not only helped manage pain but also contributed to the improvement of overall well-being among patients. The study also highlighted the potential of medical cannabis in addressing issues such as loss of appetite and nausea, which are common challenges faced by individuals in palliative care, which we will expand upon below.

Current evidence underscores the potential of cannabis medicines as a valuable addition to the toolkit of palliative care practitioners, offering a comprehensive approach to managing pain and enhancing patients’ comfort during their end-of-life journey.

Medical Cannabis in Palliative Care

Nausea and Appetite Enhancement

People in palliative care often grapple with complex physical and emotional challenges that can significantly impact their appetite and trigger episodes of nausea.

The underlying medical conditions, treatments, and medications used to manage symptoms during palliative care can disrupt the body’s natural regulatory systems, leading to reduced appetite and increased susceptibility to nausea. The stress, anxiety, and emotional toll of facing a serious illness can further compound these issues.

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, pain medications, and other treatments commonly associated with palliative care can disturb the gastrointestinal system and interfere with the normal signals that regulate hunger and digestion. Medical cannabis may be a way to help those with an advanced illness with appetite stimulation.

A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management in 2016 conducted a systematic review of the literature to evaluate the effectiveness of cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The review found substantial evidence indicating that cannabinoids, particularly THC, were effective in reducing nausea and improving overall well-being in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Another 2020 study published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine investigated the impact of medical cannabis on appetite enhancement in patients with advanced cancer. The study administered medical cannabis to patients experiencing cancer-related anorexia, and the results demonstrated a statistically significant increase in appetite and food intake in most patients. This suggests that medical cannabis has the potential to address appetite-related challenges often encountered in palliative care settings so to promote weight gain.

By potentially counteracting loss of appetite, medical cannabis could contribute to the overall nutritional and emotional well-being of patients in palliative care, offering a holistic approach to their care journey.

Improved Sleep and Mood

Medical cannabis has demonstrated potential to positively impacting mood and sleep quality for patients undergoing palliative care.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine explored the effects of medical cannabis on patients with advanced cancer, focusing on its influence on mood and depressive symptoms. The research found that medical cannabis administration led to notable improvements in mood, with a reduction in depressive symptoms among participants. This suggests that medical cannabis might hold promise as a complementary approach to addressing emotional well-being in the palliative care setting.

Another clinical review featured in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2020 investigated the impact of the medical cannabis plant on sleep quality among patients with advanced cancer. The study revealed that medical cannabis use was associated with improved sleep duration and reduced sleep disturbances. Sleep disturbances are common among individuals in palliative care due to the complexities of their medical conditions and treatments.

These studies as well as further high quality evidence support that those in palliative care may find emotional relief when using medical marijuana, as sleep is crucial to emotional well-being, and everyone who is going through palliative care can certainly use a mood enhancement as these treatments can often be very difficult.

Medical Cannabis in Palliative Care

Offering A Personal Touch to Medical Cannabis in Palliative Care

At Compassionate Clinics of America, we understand that every patient’s journey is unique. Our team of medical professionals is dedicated to tailoring cannabis-based treatment plans to address individual needs, preferences, and medical conditions.

By offering personalized consultations and guiding patients through the safe and responsible use of medical cannabis, we aim to provide not just physical relief, but also emotional and psychological comfort. A goal of Compassionate Clinics of America is to empower patients and their families with the knowledge and resources necessary to make informed decisions about their treatment.

The integration of medical cannabis into end-of-life care represents a paradigm shift in healthcare—one that focuses on dignity, comfort, and relief. With research-backed evidence and personalized support, we stand by our belief that cannabis has a significant and comforting role to play in palliative care. If you or someone you love is undergoing palliative care and you are curious about the role that medical cannabis can play, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Compassionate Clinics of America. We serve patients from the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, & West Virginia,.

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