OK, you've decided that medical marijuana (MMJ) may be just the right medication for your loved one, or at least worth a try, it is legal in your state, and you want to give it a try. But how do you do that? You can't just walk into a pharmacy and buy some. You can't get a prescription for it from your regular doctor and you know you don't want to buy the street stuff. (PLEASE, don't buy the street stuff for anyone with dementia or any other disorder where hallucinations, delusions and paranoia are common!)
As with any doctor's visit, it will some preparation. Each state is different, with different regulations, costs and requirements. Marijuana Doctors.com. is a good place to start. It provides needed information for each state for:
- The laws specific to your state, and other state specific information such as a website, phone numbers and registration requirements.
- The specific illnesses your state has stipulated to qualify for MMJ treatment. Check to see if your state covers any of your loved one's illnesses. If it doesn't, you may not qualify for use.
- Obtaining a Medical Marijuana Registry Card. Some states allow you to get this online. Most require a personal visit to a marijuana doctor. Registration can cost from $25 to $150, depending on the state. It may cost less for persons on SSDI, or other specific groups. This just gives the patient, their caregiver or other legal representative the privilege of buying the MMJ. States that allow recreational marijuana may not require registration.
- Choosing a marijuana doctor. Your state may not allow your regular doctor to recommend MMJ. Or, it it does, your regular doctor may not feel comfortable doing so. "Marijuana doctors and clinics" are listed for each state by community. Most states require at least one visit to this doctor to acquire the registration card and get a recommendation for the type and amount of MMJ to use for the specified illness. The initial visit can cost from $85 to $200. Renewal or followup prices are usually lower. This doctor "recommends" the MJ (vs. prescribe which is still illegal under federal law).
Websites that list local locations and other information:
Before the visit to the doctor:
- Forward the medical records. Well before the visit, sign a release and ask the staff at your regular doctor's office to forward the medical records. Do this with each doctor your loved one sees, and for any doctors seen in the past for the illness you want to use the MMJ for. Wait a week and then call the MJ clinic to see if the information has arrived. Follow-up if it hasn't.
- Forward records of x-rays, and other tests. Perform the same follow-up procedure as above.
- Complete a medical history form. When you make the appointment, ask if you can obtain a copy of the medical history and fill it out at home. If a copy of their form isn't available, you can find a good, inclusive form at BestMedicalForms.com (Keep this website handy, it has a good list of forms to use for other needs too!) You may need to fill out another form at the clinic, but you will at least have the info handy and it won't take as long.
- Make a list of the therapies used and doctors visited for the illness you want to treat with MMJ.
- Update your ER Kit. If you don't already have one, see our 7/15/16 and 5/29/15 blogs for what should be in your kit. Is the list of current drugs, doses and times accurate? Do you need to add anything new to the "avoid this drug list"? Have you found a helpful, short article to share with clinic personnel?
- Your ER Kit. Besides the fact that it has needed lists of presently used drugs,etc, you are probably going to be talking to someone who knows little about LBD.
- The medical history form you completed
- Your list of therapies and doctors pertaining to the present illness
- Your loved one. Although a caregiver, spouse or other legal representative may obtain the marijuana once it is recommended, the doctor will want to see the patient. (Yes, common sense, but worth mentioning, just in case!)
MMJ: Medicinal marijuana
LBD: Lewy body dementia
THC: cannabinoid in marijuana that causes the high
CBD: cannabinoid in marijuana that has antipsychotic properites
PlwD: person living with dementia
PlwLBD: person living with LBD
DLB: dementia with Lewy bodies
PDD: Parkinson's disease with dementia
MCI: mild cognitive impairment
MCI-LB: the form of MCI that precedes LBD
BPSD: behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia
For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia
Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.