Talking to your doctor about medicinal cannabis can feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s essential if you want to get a prescription in New Zealand.
One day talking to your doctor about cannabis will be as normal as talking to them about antibiotics or paracetamol.
But today there’s still a stigma around cannabis and patients continue to face barriers to access.
A recent survey found that more than half of New Zealanders using cannabis for medical purposes have never discussed it with their doctor.
Reasons included cost, the limited range of cannabis-based products available, the perceived difficulty in obtaining a prescription, and the fear of being judged by their doctor.
Despite this, medical cannabis prescriptions in New Zealand are on the rise, which means more people, like you, are having these conversations with their doctor.
Medicinal cannabis is legal in New Zealand and you’re perfectly entitled to ask your doctor about using it for your health condition or symptoms.
If you’re thinking about talking to your doctor about cannabis, we’ve compiled a list of questions to help you prepare for your appointment.
How to talk to your doctor about medicinal cannabis
Before you make your appointment, take a few minutes to read our guide to getting a medicinal cannabis prescription in New Zealand.
Then you can use the 7 questions below to help the conversation with your doctor to go as smoothly as possible.
1. I’m thinking about trying medicinal cannabis. What do you think?
There are two reasons for asking this question early in the conversation.
Firstly, it creates an environment of collaboration. If you start by asking for a medicinal cannabis prescription, your doctor may pull back.
By asking them for their opinion, you’re showing that you’re there to listen and you value their advice. Remember, your doctor is a medical expert and they may have ideas that you haven’t yet considered.
Secondly, the question acts as a litmus test.
If your doctor is strongly opposed to medicinal cannabis, you can either decide not to take the conversation any further, or prepare to make your case.
On the other hand, if they are open to medicinal cannabis, the floor is open to explore the possibility together.
2. How can cannabis products help treat/manage my health condition?
We recommend doing your own research before your doctor’s appointment.
But for the reasons outlined above, it’s important to ask them for clinical advice before you present the evidence you’ve collected.
If your doctor is up-to-speed with the latest research, you may find that you don’t need to make a case at all.
However, if they aren’t sure about the potential health benefits, you could follow up this question by asking if you can show them your research.
3. Which medical cannabis product is right for me?
Currently, doctors in New Zealand don’t have the freedom to prescribe a wide range of cannabis-based products.
As the range of medicinal cannabis products increases, doctors will have more options and this question will become more important.
It encompasses additional questions, such as:
- Is CBD or THC more effective for my health condition?
- What dosage (or CBD:THC ratio) do you recommend?
- What application or consumption method is best for me?
Talking with your doctor about the right blend and dosage will help you to get the best product for your health condition and symptoms.
4. What are the risks and side effects of medicinal cannabis?
You should talk with your doctor about the potential risks and side effects associated with medicinal cannabis use.
There may be specific issues around using medical cannabis for your particular health condition that you need to be aware of.
Your doctor will be able to provide advice around what to do if you experience any adverse effects.
5. Will cannabis interfere with other medications I’m taking?
Your doctor will also be intimately familiar with your medical history and the other medications you’re taking, so they’ll be able to advise you about any potential interactions they may have with cannabis.
Even the caffeine in your morning coffee has been found to interact with dozens of prescription medications, so it pays to check that cannabis is safe to use with whatever else you’re taking.
Maybe you’re wanting to substitute a medicine you’re currently using with a cannabis-based product. If so, your doctor will be able to advise you how to do that safely.
6. How will cannabis affect my ability to do everyday tasks?
Is it safe to drive, work, or take care of children while using medicinal cannabis?
These are valid questions. You should ask your doctor about how different products and dosages will affect your ability to do everyday tasks.
This is connected to the question: “Will medical cannabis get me high?”
THC is the main compound in cannabis that’s responsible for the “high” feeling. Therefore, high-dose THC products may temporarily impair your ability to do everyday tasks, such as driving.
CBD oil typically won’t impair your judgement or motor skills, but they may have other side effects.
Just remember, potential impairment is not unique to cannabis-based medicines. All sorts of common medications come with warnings about drowsiness, dizziness, and even blurred vision.
Most people can function normally on most medicinal cannabis products, but your doctor can provide you with information that’s specific to your situation.
7. Can I get funding or financial support for medicinal cannabis?
At the time of writing, no medicinal cannabis products are funded in New Zealand, but they could be in future.
If enough people ask their doctor about funding or financial support for medicinal cannabis, that message may make its way to the powers that be and help bring about change.
Pharmac has said it will consider funding any medicinal cannabis products that are cleared and recommended for use.
In this together
The key to a constructive conversation with your doctor is to understand that you’re working together towards a shared goal.
You want to improve your health and quality of life, and they want to help you do that.
If you feel that your doctor is dismissive of your questions, you can always seek a second opinion or find a doctor who’s more open to medicinal cannabis.
It’s important that you feel safe and supported on your journey to better health.