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What dilemmas do nurses face caring for patients who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes?

  • Comments (2)
  • Article: de Vries K, Green AJ (2012) Therapeutic use of cannabis. Nursing Times; 108: 9.
  • Author: Kay de Vries is senior lecturer, Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; Anita J Green is dual diagnosis nurse consultant, Mill View Hospital, Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust.

Key points

  1. Nurses have a responsibility to be well informed about research on all medications taken by patients, including licensed, pharmacologically prepared and illegal cannabis
  2. Patients should be given information about the physical and psychological effects of illegal cannabis and how it may interact with prescribed medication
  3. Nurses should ensure they document patients’ cannabis use, its effects and side-effects
  4. They should ensure patients are aware of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and of the penalties for using cannabis
  5. Nurses should not get involved in supplying, funding, obtaining or preparing cannabis for patients even if the latter are unable to do this

Let’s discuss

  • Do you think there is strong evidence to support the use of cannabis to control symptoms associated life limiting illness?
  • What action should you take if a patient discloses they are using cannabis for symptom control? 
  • It has been suggested that patients with specified medical conditions should be exempt from criminal prosecution if they grow cannabis for their own use. What are the arguments for and against this proposal?  
  • Cannabis is available in a number of countries as a synthetic product. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using these synthetic products?
  • Comments (2)

Readers' comments (2)

  • Anonymous

    I have worked closely with people who use cannabis to control symptoms of MS. There is evidence that it does help with pain control and may help reduce overactive bladder symptoms, As far as I am concerned there is no dilemma for me as a nurse. What people do safely in their own homes is their own business, as long as no children are put at risk. My concerns, which I raise with patients, is the effect that smoking cannabis products has on the lungs. If the patient says that cannabis helps them then who am I to say "you must stop it"? As long as I have asked them to consider any risks to their health and safety then I feel that I have done my duty as a nurse. The legal issue is just that, it is not a nursing issue in itself.

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  • Anonymous

    well said.

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