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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Managing Marijuana Use

Published November 14, 2012 1:18 PM by Robin Hocevar

Last week, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize marijuana for non-medical use.

Many nurses, especially those in oncology, have had years of experience of with patients using the substance for pain relief. More than 6,000 studies have linked cannabis with combating nausea, stimulating appetites and managing chronic pain. The FDA has approved two synthetic cannabinoid drugs for use in patients with extreme nausea, with a third drug in Phase III of a clinical trial.

That’s not to say there are no risks to using marijuana. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that marijuana causes an increase in heart rate, which could put users at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Marijuana smoke also contains carcinogens similar to tobacco smoke. In some studies, adolescent users have been reported to lose several IQ points.

Washington state’s new law incorporates a public health model encompassing government regulation, research, community education and prevention programs.

Nurses in public health have been familiar with this approach but the availability of marijuana will touch patient encounters in every specialty. Do you public health nurses have any advice for RNs out West who will likely be navigating marijuana use in patients for the first time? Do you foresee any other issues—positive or negative—with your patients as a result of this legislation?




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