A patient’s perspective
Laura was a physician who spent much of her clinical time treating substance abuse disorders, and she had no recent experience with cannabis herself. Her aversion to using cannabis when she was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer did not surprise me. Nausea, and the anxiety that preceded its inevitable occurrence, were disabling. I trained with Laura in family medicine, and I had appreciated the beneficial effects of cannabis used by my cancer patients, but it was hard getting Laura to accept my advice.
Finally, I introduced her to a calibrated vaporizer – a method of administration that could provide quick relief, but was different than the ‘smoke a joint out behind the barn’ approach she had imagined. She started with a CBD-rich herb that had a ratio of 2:1 CBD:THC, hoping that the resulting intoxication would be mild enough to tolerate.
I received a call from Laura three days after her latest chemo, and quickly answered it to see if her trial of cannabis had been helpful to her. At first I was concerned because she was crying into the phone, but when I could understand her words I was thrilled. She reported, “It worked faster, better, and more completely than any of the prescriptions my oncologist gave me.”
If even reading about nausea and vomiting will make you queasy, you may want to jump to the end of this article and skip the potentially nauseating details. Nausea is like that – easy to feel if you are so inclined.
Nausea and vomiting are each distinctive, different problems – clearly related, but quite different when it comes to cause and treatment. Those who suffer know that nausea is worse to live with than vomiting because it is a continuous sensation, and is harder to control.
What is nausea?
Nausea and vomiting are protective defense mechanisms in the human body, and short-term episodes can be therapeutic, though miserable. But what if nausea is not short-term? What if it is an unavoidable side effect, or chronic, with no relief in sight?
If there is no clear trigger for nausea, a patient should work with their doctor to discover the underlying problem. This is true especially if the nausea does not resolve within a day or two because that may be a sign of more serious problems.