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J Cannabis Ther 2003(2):41-50

Palliative Care

Attitudes and Beliefs about the Use of Cannabis for Symptom Control in a Palliative Population

Author
R. Gallagher, J. A. Best, G. Fyles, P. Hawley, W. Yeomans

Abstract
 There is increasing support for the use of cannabis in terminal illness. Sixty-eight patients from a palliative population were surveyed for their attitudes and beliefs about the use of cannabis in terminal illness.

Symptomatic patients with advanced illness were surveyed for attitudes, beliefs and symptom severity. Participants showed concern about cannabis' possible side effects and social consequences, with some significant differences between ethnic groups. Comfort with the use of cannabis for symptoms was reported by 80.9% and willingness to participate in a research study using cannabis was reported by 73.5%. Many felt cannabis was safer than morphine for pain management. Patients preferred an oral route of administration and had concerns about smoking cannabis.

Despite significant concerns about using cannabis, most palliative patients were still willing to try it for symptom relief. This may have implications if cannabis access regulations are relaxed, in that access will come before clinical studies on its uses and side effects in this population. If cannabis is viewed as safer than morphine by some, cannabis may be used as the sole analgesic and the standard therapy of opioids may be rejected. The reluctance of patients to smoke cannabis and the need for accurate information about cannabis and pain control in the palliative population is noted.

Keywords
Cannabis, medical marijuana, palliative care, symptom relief

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