Cannabis is legal in Colorado, and the number of other states where it is legalized is growing. Craig cares for patients from all over the country, which means that honest conversations about cannabis use is important.
A recent survey of former Craig patients showed that 48% have used marijuana since their injury, so our goal is to educate patients and help them reduce their risk of adverse events if they choose to use marijuana whether medically or recreationally.
Craig does not endorse the use of marijuana, and Craig physicians do not write medical marijuana recommendations. However, to help patients make informed decisions, this is some critical information about cannabis that we suggest keeping in mind:
- The great variability in potency, composition and formulations of marijuana products can result in unpredictable responses in a person’s body.
- Significant drug interactions exist that can cause harm, including an increased risk of cardiac events when used with Viagra and other erectile dysfunction meds and increased bleeding when used with aspirin, anticoagulants, NSAIDS and antiplatelet drugs.
- Marijuana potentially interferes with brain healing after a traumatic brain injury.
- Use in adolescence is associated with learning, memory and behavior problems; lower academic performance; and lower motivation to meet goals.
- Marijuana isn’t the best choice for pain or sleep management. First-line medications for pain, sleep and spasticity have been shown to be more effective than marijuana-based products.
- Side effects of marijuana that can put a person at risk include compromising a person’s motor coordination, causing them to experience distorted perceptions and changes in their blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar.
- Smoking marijuana is associated with chronic cough, increased phlegm and chronic bronchitis, which are particularly challenging for anyone with underlying respiratory illness or impairment.
When making decisions about using marijuana or other drugs to help deal with life’s challenges like loss, grief, loneliness or illness, there are often alternative solutions that involve less risk, particularly for people with a brain or spinal cord injury. Always remember to consult your primary care doctor with any questions, and you can turn to our Nurse Advice Line to help you find the mental and physical health resources that you need.