Thinking about trying cannabis medicine but don’t feel like you know enough about it? And maybe neither does your doctor? We get it. You need confidence in order to take the leap with something that will affect your health. Well, get ready to get woke about cannabis medicine! Elevate Holistics’ Russell Colby recently chatted live on Facebook with an actual cannabis pharmacist (yes, they do exist!), and she shared some valuable need-to-know info for patients who use cannabis as medicine. In this post, we discuss how medical cannabis is not about getting high … it’s about the medicinal effects.

About Kelsey Schwander

Kelsey Schwander is a Doctor of Pharmacy originally from Denver, Colorado, who has been practicing in St. Louis, Missouri for the last three years. Through her company,  

BHealth Consulting, she meets one-to-one with patients in a doctor’s office. In her work, she helps patients and doctors understand the overall picture of their medications and supplements and how they work and interact with cannabis. Additionally, she is also a professor at a pharmacy school—helping to fill the gap of medical cannabis experts in the healthcare field!

We're Your Glass Half Full Cannabis Doctors

It’s About the Medicinal Effects

According to Dr. Schwander, most cannabis patients don’t want to be high.

Dr. Kelsey Schwander (BHealth Consulting): I would say, there are some patients who do want to have a high effect, but I would say 98% of my patients don't want to be high. They really are looking for the medical benefit. So we're really finding some great benefit for patients better than prescription medication.

As I was saying before, CB1 receptors are in our central nervous system, they're in our spleen, they're in our heart, they're in our GI tract. And CB2 receptors are mainly on our immune cells. There's a lot of different disease states. And that's why, if something is off balance we find that, cannabis can put it back into balance.

How Cannabis Medicine Works Differently

Dr. Kelsey Schwander (BHealth Consulting): Now, one thing that's different between prescription medication and cannabis is that prescription medication really targets one receptor or one area, and it can have different side effects that we don't want.

With cannabis, we have—you may have heard of it—the entourage effect. So THC, CBD, the terpenes (terpenes are the oils of the plants in case people don't know what that is) they work together synergistically and help all different kinds of areas of the body positively, and they don't go after just one receptor like some prescription medications.

With that said, I will say about prescription medications, as a pharmacist, I have seen prescription medications save lives. I think they're really important when needed. But I also realize that in certain disease states with certain medications, if cannabis can be used instead or to supplement someone's medication—like opioids for example for pain—that’s great. If I have a patient who has chronic pain and is on high amounts of opioids, if they use some cannabis to decrease that dose, I mean, I'm happy for that. I prefer them to do that.

Chronic Pain and Opioids

To follow up, Russell then asked the cannabis pharmacist to explain why cannabis is better for chronic pain than opioids.

Dr. Kelsey Schwander (BHealth Consulting): Yeah. So opioids, the way they work, they bind to your Mu receptor. I won't get into too nerdy, but what it does is it blocks the feeling of pain. So it's a Band-Aid. Instead of fixing the problem, it's a Band-Aid, and we know that with opioids, people can overdose on them. Because there's receptors in the brain and we can overdose on them, we know that opioids can cause your lifespan to shorten for long-term use; it causes constipation, it causes all these problems.

Also, CB1 receptors are almost absent in the respiratory area in your brain. And that is why there's never been any recorded overdoses of cannabis ever. So the fear with opioids is called a respiratory depression. You take too much and a lot of people do it on accident. They forgot they took a dose or they don't realize they took two at one time or something. It happens all the time, and they stop breathing. And that's what happens in an overdose, where with cannabis, you can't overdose on it. You may not feel great if you take too much, but you can't overdose on it.

Cannabis Side Effects

So the side effects with cannabis—compared to some prescription medications there's not a lot—are sedation and confusion with some if you aren't dosing it correctly can happen. But again, that's a lot better than respiratory depression compared to some of our other medications. 

Always Tell Your Doctor If You Take Cannabis

I always tell patients if you're on opioids or chronic pain, you always, always, always, no matter what you're on, you should always tell your healthcare provider that you're starting to use cannabis because they're going to have to monitor you. They're changing the dose with opioids—we know that it can increase sedation with cannabis. So, that's a bad side effect we need to be careful of. Always talk to your provider before you start cannabis, if you're on opioids. But again, the downside to the side effects of cannabis are minimal compared to some of the prescription medications out there.

Elevate Holistics for Access to Cannabis Knowledge

Knowledge and understanding are the great connectors that keep us from being divided from that which could greatly benefit us. This is why Elevate Holistics believes in being a part of the cannabis community. Feel free to join our Facebook group where you will find regular interviews with industry experts, visits to dispensaries, and cannabis advocates of all sorts who believe in patient access to medical marijuana.

And check out our website for additional services like pharmacist consultations. Some of these are free add-ons when you book an appointment for your medical marijuana card or renewal. As always, if you have any questions—reach out! We’re here to make your cannabis experience safe, easy, and as beneficial as possible. Cheers!

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