Pain practitioners would seem to have an obligation to understand and inform their patients on key issues of the evidence base on cannabinoid therapeutics. One way to fulfill this obligation might be to borrow from concepts developed in the prescription of opioids: the use of a written agreement to describe and minimize risks. Regrettably, the widespread adoption of opioids was undertaken while harmful effects were minimized; obviously, no one wants to repeat this misstep.
This article describes a method of educating patients in a manner analogous to other treatment agreements.
Surveys have demonstrated that pain is the most common indication for medical use of cannabis. As more individuals gain access to this botanical product through state ballot initiatives and legislative mandate, the pain specialist is likely to be confronted by patients either seeking such treatment where permitted, or otherwise inquiring about its potential benefits and harms, and alternative pharmaceuticals containing cannabinoids.
PubMed searches were conducted using the following keywords: cannabis guidelines, harmful effects of cannabis, medical marijuana, medicinal cannabis, opioid cannabis interaction, cannabis dependence and cannabis abuse
The authors selected individual tenets a medicinal cannabis patient would be asked to review and acknowledge via signature.
Undoubtedly, the knowledge base concerning risks will be an iterative process as we learn more about the long-term use of medicinal cannabis. But we should start the process now so that patients may be instructed about our current conception of what the use of medicinal cannabis entails.