Compassionate Caregivers Will Be Asked to Stand Strong

By Stu Smith, Co-Director of Medical Marijuana Advocacy, U.S. Pain Foundation

Advocating for your loved one’s right to cannabis can be challenging—but rewarding

The utilization of cannabis for the treatment of numerous medical conditions remains controversial. This dispute over the efficacy of medical cannabis is doing a disservice to millions of patients suffering from a host of chronic medical conditions.

A common roadblock: a perceived lack of research
Those who promote a negative perception of medical cannabis base their position on unfounded and irrational facts. The most common argument against the utilization of cannabis for medicine is that there is only minimal research available to demonstrate the legitimate medicinal qualities of cannabis. While there are many unfounded and illogical arguments opposing the use of cannabis, this argument is the one that the most influential group opposing its medical application embraces: doctors.

The truth is that a great deal of empirical evidence is available regarding cannabis as a potentially effective remedy for any number of medical conditions from seizures to multiple sclerosis to chronic pain.

But there IS research available…
The problem for those living in the U.S. is that currently, most research on cannabis is prohibited by law. This is in stark contrast to Israel, which has engaged in comprehensive research for over 25 years, even including the effects on minors. Research has been published and is available online, making an effective case and demonstrating the legitimacy of cannabis as an effective medication.

Until the American medical system embraces cannabis as an acceptable form of treatment, patients and patient caregiver advocates will need to overcome multiple challenges in attempting to access this natural plant-based medication that produces no toxic side effects.

This fight is personal
My wife, Ellen, and I have been legally cultivating numerous strains of cannabis for the past eight years. We have observed firsthand the life-altering impact of this medication on some conditions. From chronic pain to seizures, cannabis possesses medicinal properties, with the capacity to moderate and in some cases, eliminate symptoms such as seizures.

With cannabis, hope and quality of life can often be returned to those with chronic conditions.

How does the committed, compassionate caregiver expand their role beyond physical and emotional support to become a highly vocal and visible advocate?

Many caregivers may feel uncomfortable in the role of an aggressive advocate, but when a treatment such as cannabis—with all of its potential—is to be considered, the committed caregiver must embrace the role of advocate. Barriers must be overcome.

In the case of cannabis, facts must be marshaled to dispel the myths and propaganda, which so often present the greatest barrier to acceptance of cannabis as a legitimate and effective treatment.

Patients are often not strong enough to fight for themselves
Many patients, with their physical disabilities and emotional vulnerabilities, are simply not strong enough to advocate for themselves. In my experience, patients often find little support from family or friends—or their doctor—when considering the cannabis option. The committed caregiver must step up and promote the interests and well-being of their patient.

The conscientious caregiver must never lose the trust of his or her patient and in some cases, this requires a total commitment to patient health and well-being without regard to consequences. The committed caregiver must, above all else, maintain and expand the level of trust between themselves and their patient.

In the case of the medicinal use of cannabis, this can include facing the wrath of angry family members and medical professionals. The caregiver’s essential responsibility is to their patient.

The key to overcoming obstacles as a fierce caregiver
How does the caregiver advocate confront and attempt to overcome the often inevitable obstacles to the inclusion of cannabis in a patient’s treatment plan?

The caregiver must educate themselves. The caregiver advocate must be able to logically confront the decades of propaganda and misinformation which have effectively served to warp society’s understanding of the effects of this drug, and thus to ignore its medical potential.

The general understanding of cannabis is that it is dangerous and should be categorized similarly to heroin and methamphetamine. The caregiver advocate must challenge misinformation and outright lies regarding the effects of cannabis on the human body, in order to support their patient in his or her quest for new, often unconventional treatments.

This is about creating an improved quality of life centered upon hope and trust. The very process of self-education and honest advocacy will enhance the trust between patient and caregiver that is so critical for effective caregiving. In this process, two people—caregiver and patient—may find a deeper understanding of their common humanity, which will prove incredibility rewarding and an end in itself.

Many caregivers may feel uncomfortable in the role of an aggressive advocate, but when a treatment such as cannabis—with all of its potential—is to be considered, the committed caregiver must embrace the role of advocate. – Stu Smith