Conversations and stories can change the world. They’re powerful tools for bridging the gap between people and coming to a place of shared understanding.
Author Linda Lambert wrote, “One good conversation can shift the direction of change forever.”
You’ve probably noticed that the conversation about medicinal cannabis has changed a lot in recent years.
Much of the fear, apprehension and misinformation of the past has given way to acceptance, openness and understanding.
Legislative changes paving the way for a new medicinal cannabis industry have played a big part in this.
But those changes wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for years of conversations and the sharing of stories between people of all walks of life.
Today, with medicinal cannabis available with a prescription, there are new conversations taking place between patients and doctors.
We have a helpful article about questions to ask your doctor when seeking a medicinal cannabis prescription.
This article is about the importance of sharing your personal story with your doctor in the hope of coming to a shared understanding.
Stories create empathy, which can lead to better care and more effective treatment — not only for you, but for patients who come after you.
Why sharing your story with your doctor is important
We know that many patients struggle to talk to their doctor about medicinal cannabis.
A New Zealand survey from 2020 of medicinal users of cannabis found that 38% of respondents hadn’t asked for a prescription because they were scared of being judged by their doctor and 40.8% thought their providers wouldn’t prescribe.
It’s likely that things have improved since the anonymous survey, but the survey findings suggest a disconnect between patients seeking medicinal cannabis and their doctors.
Sharing your story with your doctor in an open conversation can help to foster connection and collaboration between patients and doctors.
We’ve already seen the conversation shift from “cannabis is bad” to “why are you using it?” as doctors adapt to new medicinal cannabis legislation.
Your story can help take the conversation to the next stage in which doctors proactively ask, “How can I help you use medical cannabis safely and effectively?”.
Tips for sharing your cannabis story with your doctor
There are several reasons why you may want to share your cannabis story with your doctor.
Perhaps you’ve used cannabis medicinally for years and you’re now ready to do so legally with a prescription.
You might have tried medicinal cannabis once or twice and found it to be helpful and now you want to ask your doctor about using it as part of your treatment plan.
Maybe you’ve been learning about the benefits of medicinal cannabis and want to share a more personal story about how your health condition is affecting your quality of life and why medicinal cannabis might help.
Or you’ve been using prescription cannabis for a while and want to share with your doctor how it’s changed your life.
Whatever your motivation, hopefully the advice below can help you to share your story in a way that moves the cannabis conversation forward.
Start with an invitation
There is a difference between a story and a sermon.
You don’t want to preach to your doctor about the merits of medicinal cannabis.
Rather, ask them politely if they would be interested in hearing your story about your experiences with medicinal cannabis.
You’ll most likely find that your doctor accepts the invitation. More and more doctors in New Zealand and around the world are open to prescribing medicinal cannabis.
If they’re not interested, you may want to consider contacting another doctor.
Keep it brief
Most doctors’ appointments are about 15 minutes, so you don’t want to take up all of that time.
You can opt to book a double appointment, but that’s not always practical.
Prior to the appointment, think about the key points of your story and see if you can keep it to just a few minutes.
Make it personal
Your story is more powerful when it’s personal.
For example, you could share specific examples of how your health condition is affecting your life and why you think medicinal cannabis can help you.
If you’ve used (or you’re using) cannabis medicinally, you can share anecdotes of how it helps to relieve your symptoms and improve your life.
Maybe your pain, anxiety, or sleep have improved. Or perhaps you have more confidence and freedom to do everyday activities that you never thought would be possible again.
As these stories and anecdotal evidence start to add up, they can be just as important as clinical research.
Doctors will have a library of patient stories to draw from as they make clinical decisions going forward.
Be prepared to back it up
It’s a good idea to have some evidence to back up your story.
It just adds an extra layer of credibility to the conversation.
We have a great guide to doing medicinal cannabis research here.
Know you’re not alone
Many people are afraid of being judged by their doctor if they talk about medicinal cannabis, probably because there’s still a stigma around it.
But you don’t need to be afraid.
Medicinal cannabis has been available as a prescription medicine in New Zealand for some time now. Thousands of prescriptions have been written in that time.
While there may still be some resistance to medicinal cannabis in the health sector, most doctors are much more open to it.
There are many people sharing their cannabis stories with doctors every day.
By sharing your story and opening up an honest conversation with your doctor, you’re contributing to the growing body of anecdotal evidence for the real-world benefits of medicinal cannabis.
Keep that in mind if you’re feeling nervous about sharing your story.
Moving forward together
Sharing your story and opening a conversation with your doctor may help to change the world.
That might sound idealistic.
But just think of the combined effect that thousands of individual stories could have.
However, it’s important to remember that a conversation goes both ways.
Your doctor might have their own story and it might be different to yours.
In order to navigate this new world of medicinal cannabis, we need to seek to understand and respect where everyone is coming from.
It’s possible that your doctor hasn’t had many (or any) open conversations with patients about medicinal cannabis.
Your story might be a starting point or it might be a breakthrough moment. Either way, it’s important for you to share it.
Ora Pharm has many articles and resources that you can use to prepare for sharing your story.
You can also sign up for Ora Support, our educational platform for patients and caregivers.