Palliative care refers to the care one receives towards the end of their lives. The intention of palliative care is to make the person who is facing the end of their life as comfortable as possible. Palliative care is often related to chronic pain management, in part because of the work of Dame Cicely Saunders, who emphasized the importance of palliative care in healthcare, as well as developing our understanding of chronic pain.
Much of palliative care involves treating not only any physical pain the patient might be feeling, but also the psychological, emotional and spiritual challenges they are facing. This means that a variety of treatments need to be employed for effective palliative care, including medications, therapy, counselling, spiritual guidance and a centering of the patient’s, family’s and carer’s needs for the duration of the patient’s life.
Cannabis and cannabinoids can potentially be useful in palliative care due to its multi-receptor targeting, meaning that it can be used as a way to reduce or replace the need for medications that may leave one otherwise numb or “zombified” (e.g. opioids, sedatives, antidepressants).
Cannabis can also help treat many common problems associated with palliative care, such as sleep problems, fatigue, anxiety and appetite loss. Other advantages include an improved appreciation of music, food and art. There is also interest in psychedelic therapy for psychological and existential distress in palliative and cancer care.
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