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Medical cannabis patients urged not to self-medicate when recreational marijuana is legal

Eight-year-old Brayden Hollawa has used medical cannabis for just over a year and his parents say it’s saved his life.

“We tried all kind of procedures, all kinds of implants, all kinds of pharmaceuticals with varying degrees of success… but not very much success,” said Brayden’s dad Darren Hollawa.

Since birth, the Calgary boy has suffered from severe seizures.

At one point, his dad says Brayden was taking 26 pills a day. Now, under the supervision of doctors, Hollowa takes CBD, a form of medical cannabis. He hasn’t had a seizure since.

“It was immediately successful, like immediately — the very first drop.”

READ MORE: Reality check – is it safe to use marijuana during pregnancy? 

When recreational use of marijuana becomes legal in Canada in 2018, pediatric patients will still only be able to access the drug with a prescription, but adult patients curious about marijuana will be able to try it on their own. That’s a concern for groups like the Arthritis Society of Canada, who want to make sure cannabis as a medicine is treated very distinctly.

“People, like with any medication, want to be assured that from a consistency, safety, quality and reliability perspective, that every time they fill the prescription or authorization, they’re getting the exact same thing,” said Janet Yale, president and CEO of the arthritis society.

Cannabis, however is not yet fully treated like medicine in Canada. It doesn’t have a “DIN” (a drug identification number) and so most insurance providers won’t cover it. It’s also under researched.

Dr. Jason McDougall’s lab at Dalhousie University is currently looking at how cannabis can be used to treat arthritis pain and inflammation, but he says research like this is relatively rare and there’s still so much to learn when it comes to using this drug.

“For example, it would be good to know the sufficient dosage of cannabis, the best way of administering medical cannabis and also some of the drug-to-drug interactions cannabis can have with other pain medications.”

READ MORE: Ready to swap beer for pot?  Many Canadians will be, once it’s legal

There are thousands of strains of cannabis, so having a working knowledge of the different compounds can help medical users find the right one to best treat their condition.

According to a study published in the journal Current Pharmacology, cannabis can be broken down into two main sub-types. The first is Sativa, which has more of a psychoactive effect and is often described as uplifting and energizing. The other is Indica, which is known for its sedating properties.

Tetra-hydro-cannabinol (THC) is the principle compound found in cannabis. It is used to treat acute pain and inflammation. Another medicinal component is cannabidiol (CBD).  CBD has been found to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC, while further inhibiting pain response and inflammation. Many strains have been bred to have a higher CBD to THC content, as high as 20:1.

Terpenes not only give each strain its distinctive smell but can further enhance its pain relieving and psychoactive qualities.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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What is a Sativa?

Sativa strains of medicinal marijuana are usually uplifting and stimulating. If you’ve ever smoked or ingested cannabis that makes everything funny and puts you in a great mood, it was probably from a Sativa strain. It creates a feeling of comfort, non-drowsy, and usually introspective highs. The effects of smoking or ingesting a Sativa makes them particularly popular among artists and creatives. The most popular medicinal benefits range from treating mental and behavioral problems, to treating depression, stress and ADHD.

What is an Indica?

The major difference between Sativa’s and Indica’s is while a Sativa can make you feel alert, active, and aware, an Indica will have a relaxing feel on the body. The physical effects of an Indica strain commonly include a drowsy and mellow mood with stress and pain relief. Indica’s are one of the more suggested strains when using it for medicinal purposes as it effectively treats sleeping disorders such as insomnia, fibromyalgia, body aches and pains. Indica’s are also commonly used for treating Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Fibromyalgia and Lupus

Why Choose Hybrid?

The benefits to smoking or ingesting a Hybrid strain are simply as follows. Hybrid’s offer the best of both worlds combining several qualities of each containing strain. Some Hybrid’s are Indica dominant, which will offer pain relief and / or mellow mood, however may contain up to 50% Sativa so it will not make you too drowsy. Other’s may offer a Sativa dominant strain, which will encompass several calming benefits and pain relief, but also give a mellow, yet energetic high.

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