Vie. Ago 19th, 2022

The rapidly swelling number of medical cannabis patients is outstripping Canadian health care’s ability to handle them, a Calgary physician who prescribes the substance said Friday.

The legalization of recreational pot has lessened the drug’s stigma, sparking a huge boom in the number of Canadians registering as medical marijuana patients with the federal government, said Dr. Sana-Ara Ahmed, an anesthesiologist and chronic pain specialist.

A year ago, there were 250,000 people registered and by last December there were 350,000, she said.

“I think the number now is more like 400,000 — it’s a startling increase,” she said.

“The challenge I’m facing as a physician is the industry is focused on a market that’s no longer medical. They do not think cannabis is a medication.”

That number’s expected to hit one million patients by 2025, added Ahmed, who addressed the Canadian Cannabis summit in downtown Calgary on Friday.

But she said only five per cent of physicians are prescribing cannabis as a medicine.

“That discrepancy bothers me … physicians need to understand the cannabinoid system and its interactions,” said Ahmed.

“So many years of drug prohibition made it hard to have those discussions.”

Since legalization last October, she said, there’s been a misguided mindset that medical users can simply help themselves with readily available cannabis products without medical guidance.

And even then, there’s been a shortage of prescribe-able product like CBDs, or non-psychoactive cannabidiol that’s used widely for medical purposes.

“Shortages of CBD oil and dried flower are frustrating for a physician who knows better,” said Ahmed, who advises provincial health-care officials on pain reduction.

cpt501 the associated press Skyrocketing medical cannabis patient numbers outpacing physician support, supply: doctor

A syringe loaded with a dose of CBD oil is shown in a research laboratory at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. David Zalubowski / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

That problem extends to a frequent inability to prescribe sufficient amounts of cannabis products to patients, who often can’t afford it, said Ahmed.

“The majority of my patients are on disability and are not working … if they can’t afford it at the level they need, my hands are very limited in taking care of them.”

In one way, Ahmed said she understands the medical community’s reluctance to sanction medicinal cannabis due to major gaps in research, which she’s hopeful will change under legalization.

But in the meantime, that lack of data could lead to opportunities being missed to use pot more to reduce dependence on and overdoses from opioids suggested by some studies.

A Calgary man who operates a black market dial-a-delivery operation said he’s long served medical patients who have nowhere else to turn and has even provided cannabis for those who can’t afford it.

“We’re getting seniors reaching out, they want us to come out to the old folks’ home to provide for them,” said Greg, who operates an outfit called Medi Man.

“Until the government catches up with what the medical community has known for decades, we will try to ease the burden for someone and their family.”

A lack of research into cannabis’s health-care merits has understandably prevented most Canadian physicians from embracing it as medicine, said Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

“Therefore, we continue to urge the government to invest resources and funding in independent research to assess the impact of cannabis in health and health care,” Osler said in a statement.

“As more scientific evidence becomes available, we will work with the government and physicians to better understand how this might fit into current medical practice.”

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