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Medical Marijuana for Terminal Illness

Studies have shown that medical marijuana can relieve symptoms associated with terminal illnesses, such as decreased appetite, nausea and vomiting, and chronic pain. Furthermore, medical marijuana can alleviate anxiety, depression, and insomnia, which are common issues experienced by those who battle a terminal illness.
terminal illness

So many things can change when you or someone you love hears those dreaded words: you have a terminal illness. Whatever your views on medical marijuana were before, they may change when a terminal illness hits closer to home.

Cancer is not the only terminal illness that affects people, but there are numerous medical marijuana benefits for cancer patients. How is marijuana beneficial? We’ll discuss that and more in this brief article.

First, though, let us talk about what terminal illness is and how it can impact a person during those final days, weeks, and months of life.

What is Terminal Illness?

Most people would likely have a basic notion regarding what is a ‘terminal illness,’ however, they may not fully understand its intricacies and challenges. One of the first questions people may have when someone they know and love is diagnosed with a terminal illness would involve help.

More specifically, how to help terminal cancer patients (and others with terminal illnesses).

A terminal illness is any disease, infection, or other illness that cannot be cured and will lead directly to death. While some diseases (like AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s) have treatments and the individual could live for many years after diagnosis, the most common characteristic and trait of a ‘terminally ill’ patient is one who is facing the end of their life within a matter of days, weeks, or months (most commonly that person would have a life expectancy of six months or less).

Cancer, motor neuron disease, lung disease, advanced heart disease, and more can all be technically counted as terminal illnesses.

How Does Medical Marijuana Help?

One of the common challenges people with terminal illness deal with is pain, discomfort, anxiety, and depression. There are numerous medical marijuana benefits doctors and researchers are discovering every year, and many of them can be quite helpful to someone facing end-of-life circumstances.

Medical marijuana has been shown to help lower anxiety levels, increase relaxation, reduce pain (especially in joints and other affected areas of the body), minimize inflammation, improve sleep patterns, and more.

Because of this, medical marijuana offers numerous direct and indirect benefits. What are the benefits of medical marijuana?


Benefits of Marijuana for Terminal Illness

Regardless of what society thinks and labels marijuana, there are actually a number of proven benefits it offers (under medical supervision) to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness, such as cancer.

How does medical marijuana help cancer patients for whom other treatments are no longer working?

It can provide some pain relief. While this is often thought of as one of the top benefits of medical marijuana for cancer patients, it has its limitations. The CBD (cannabidiol) within marijuana can help to reduce inflammation and swelling in the joints and some muscle groups. However, the more advanced the cancer (such as during the final days), the pain could be stronger than what medical marijuana is able to relieve on its own.

However, patients consistently report a reduction in pain levels when relying on medical marijuana when dealing with cancer.

It can also help improve sleep. A person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness will often face many sleepless nights. This could be due to stress and anxiety, worries about the next progression in the disease, thoughts about family, depression, and more.

THC is the active ingredient in medical marijuana that may help to reduce anxiety and stress as it acts directly on the neurons in the brain (brain cells), bringing some measure of relief and comfort to patients.

When a person does not sleep well and this goes on for days and even weeks, it not only can increase stress and anxiety, but also lower patience levels and weaken an already compromised immune system.

If you’re still wondering how is medical marijuana helping cancer patients, you may not fully understand the impact this kind of disease has on not just the body, but also the mind. Using medical marijuana may allow patients to feel less depressed, be in less pain, more engaged in life, and actually have a more positive perspective, even during those final weeks or days of their life.

Risks of Medical Marijuana

As with any medical treatment, there are some risks. However, with medical marijuana (especially for someone with a terminal illness), those risks are tempered by the reality of what they’re facing.

Some risks can involve:

    • Dry eyes
    • Dry mouth
    • Slowed reaction times
    • Difficulty with memory
    • Increased appetite
    • An altered perception of time
    • Elevated heart rate

Because of these inherent potential risks, it is essential that you consult a doctor before taking any type of medical marijuana for a terminal illness and/or end-of-life care.

Your doctor would be able to determine the best course of action, especially with regard to your disease or illness and the medications or other treatments you are likely already taking.

Is Medical Marijuana an Effective Treatment?

It can definitely help someone with a terminal illness live their final months or weeks or days on their terms. It helps to treat some of the symptoms of the illness, not the illness itself.

That is important to understand. Medical marijuana is not a treatment for the terminal illness or disease! It’s a treatment for the symptoms that terminal illness can (and often does) cause.

How to Get Medical Marijuana for Terminal Illness

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal illness -whether it’s cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart failure, lung disease, etc.- and you are experiencing depression, anxiety, pain, sleepless nights, or other symptoms commonly associated with this, it’s time to speak to a qualified and experienced doctor about medical marijuana.

Not every doctor has direct experience with terminal illness or end-of-life care. That doesn’t mean they don’t know what it is or couldn’t support you, but there are numerous options available for people facing this aspect of life that can bring comfort, some pain relief, and the ability to maintain as high a quality of life as possible … still. 

Let us connect you with a doctor who knows end-of-life care and the benefits medical marijuana can provide.

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