The FDA has approved the first drug derived from marijuana. More than half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some form, and more are considering bills to do the same, Epidiolex is the first drug to be approved by the FDA and is used to treat two forms of epilepsy.
Epidiolex, is composed of cannabidiol, also known as CBD, a component of the marijuana plant that does not cause users to get high, it is given as an oil. In recent clinical trials, Epidiolex was shown to reduce seizures by about 40% in patients with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndromes.
Medical marijuana has made significant advances in disease treatments, and this approval shows the progress of the medical use and research of marijuana.
Now, what should nurses know about the current state and future of medical marijuana use?
The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) is a national organization that works to expand the knowledge of cannabinoid therapeutics among nurses. Healthcare providers and nurses need information about the medical use of marijuana.
Nurses are responsible for providing direct patient care, keeping up to date with current medical treatment and FDA approved treatment for certain illnesses are directly relevant to a nurse's practice. There is now a growing field known as cannabis nursing.
What is cannabis nursing?
Cannabis nursing is simply the incorporation of marijuana-derived medications and products into a holistic approach to the patient's medical care. Cannabis nurses are educated on the safe use and legal aspects surrounding the use of cannabinoids as medications. As indicated in the ACNA, cannabis nurses responsibilities include "guiding use of the drug to minimize unwanted effects, identifying drug interactions, recognizing a safe medicine, assisting in titrating or tapering doses, test strains, teaching about strain differences," among others.
As with any other drugs, the use of cannabinoids must be clinically indicated.
Who can become a cannabis nurse?
Any licensed or registered nurse can become a "cannabis nurse." You can search for information on cannabisnurses.org
In the state of Florida, there are some qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana, and to be registered into the program. Patients must be diagnosed with one of the following medical conditions, deemed "debilitating." Under the Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Amendment 2, conditions which are legally protected include:
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Or a terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification.
Chronic non-malignant pain caused by one of the qualifying conditions main also be conditional for cannabinoid use for treatment.
There are plenty of research supporting and dismissing the use of medical marijuana. ProCon.org presents unbiased arguments for both and in general as well. They compare data for the treatment of specific diagnoses using medical marijuana. In the state of Florida, patients must be registered on the Medical Marijuana Use Registry, an online database for physicians and patients, and law enforcement.
Should Marijuana Be a Medical Option?
Since the government placed marijuana in the Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, it was considered of no medical use. Now 29 of the 50 states and DC have legalized the use of medical marijuana.
Opponents of medical marijuana use argue that it is dangerous and lacks FDA approval, until today, and the approval of Epidiolex, and that there are plenty other legal drugs that make marijuana use unnecessary, and this may be a front for the eventual legalization of recreational marijuana use.
Those that approve of the medical use, argue that it is safe and there is numerous research on the safe and effective treatments of illnesses using marijuana-derived medications. They cite multiple peer-reviewed studies, medical organizations, government reports, and the use of marijuana as medicine throughout world history.
The Dude Nurse
Klaus Campos, BSN-RN