We often have such strong cultural perceptions around cannabis. Some people are completely open about it, use it casually, and it’s no big deal. Some people are terrified of cannabis. I like to stay in the middle ground where we’re making sure that everyone is informed about cannabis, that we’re using it medicinally, and that people understand the full spectrum of how to use it healthily.
How do we talk about cannabis with our family? And how do we convince some people to try cannabis if they’re struggling with conventional treatments and might benefit from it?
If you’re somebody who’s interested in cannabis but don’t know how to share it with your family, the very first place I start is with the science. I know “science” can be a loaded term in our culture and politics, but as far as cannabis is concerned, science is a great place to start because scientists are not necessarily doctors. They’re not saying, “All right, how does it work on patients?” Scientists are just interested in figuring out why stuff works, where stuff comes from, and what we might do if we’re going to make a medicine out of a plant.
If you’re going to talk about cannabis, I might say, “Wow, it’s amazing how many states have legalized medical marijuana. What do you think that’s all about?” That’s in the news right now and we hear about it a lot.
If you’re informed, you might start with the endocannabinoid system. I predict that doctors and the health field will one day consider the endocannabinoid system as revolutionary a treatment target as something like germs. For years, people thought germs were a fantasy. Nobody kept hospitals clean. Doctors didn’t wash their hands before surgery. Now they do.
The endocannabinoid system is a feedback system in the body that responds to cannabinoids from the plant, although the plant has nothing to do with it. The endocannabinoid system evolved in organisms hundreds of millions of years before the plant ever had cannabinoids that fit into our systems. It’s the largest feedback system in our bodies that cells use to communicate and change behavior. It affects every organ. It’s in our bones, blood, and connective tissue.
If we’re looking at cannabis from a scientific perspective, it’s important to set the plant aside because it’s so loaded – people have all these stereotypes and perceptions around it – and just say, “All right, let’s focus on how our body receives cannabis. What’s happening?” This is what the very first researchers did from the 1960s to 1980s. They said, “All right, nobody’s synthesized the chemicals in cannabis. Let’s figure out what it does.” They uncovered this incredibly vast and important feedback system in the body.
Difference between THC and CBD
The second thing I would talk about with family and loved ones is that we must understand there’s a difference between THC and CBD. THC is what gets us high. CBD is this subtle, softer molecule in the plant that still delivers so many of the great medicinal benefits of cannabis. If you want to talk to your family and they’re unconvinced about cannabis, maybe they don’t believe that it’s a medicine. Maybe they’re worried about it.
You’ll find that CBD studies have tested effective approaches to ailments that humans and pets experience. I recently had an amazing success story with a pet who was going to be put down due to severe arthritis; however, the pet responded really well to CBD and was able to walk and eat again. The dog regained a lot of its quality of life, and the pet owners are happy with that.
But here’s the final thing that I think is really important if we’re talking about cannabis with our family members who may be wary of it or may have had negative experiences. If you use cannabis on a regular basis then you really have to dig deep and ask yourself, “To what extent is my cannabis medicine and to what extent am I using it recreationally?”
If you’re using it recreationally because it’s fun to kind of escape at the end of the day and feel a little artificial joy, then you have to make sure that you’re not abusing it. That you are being safe with it and you’re moving on with your life. Some clients in my practice have anxiety and use cannabis, and I see a medicated loop. This is when people have anxiety, so they smoke more cannabis. It relaxes them for a little bit. The anxiety comes back even stronger, and so they take more cannabis. Then they’re kind of a nervous wreck, to be honest. This is not healthy cannabis use.
If you’re a user who’s talking to family members, you want to make sure you can answer these questions. If we’re healthy about our own use and aware of the science, then we can much more easily bring these conversations to the dinner table and to people who might need them.