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Quality of Life vs. Therapeutic Use: Which is medical marijuana used for?

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

Quality of Life vs. Therapeutic Use: Which is medical marijuana used for?

Is medical marijuana used for therapeutic or quality of life purposes? Which is more important? To answer these, let’s start with definitions of these two terms using Oxford, Merriam-Webster, and Wikipedia respectfully.  We find variations for Quality of Life ranging from:

  • “The standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by an individual or group” to “how good or bad a person’s life is” and finally to “an overarching term for the quality of the various domains in human life…guided by the values, goals and socio-cultural context in which an individual lives…a subjective, multidimensional concept that defines a standard level for emotional, physical, material and social well-being.”

Therapeutic on the other hand is generally reserved as a medical term to describe:

  • “The branch of medicine concerned with the treatment of disease and the action of remedial agents and/or a treatment, therapy, or drug” to “treatment of disease or disorders by remedial agents or methods” and finally, “the response(s) after a treatment of any kind, the results of which are judged to be useful or favorable. This is true whether the result was expected, unexpected, or even an unintended consequence.”

Given these two very different types of definitions, one might be swayed to think medical marijuana is only for the quality of life since it is not considered by the mainstream medical community (and federal government) to have any medicinal use/purpose. However, those who have experienced its positive effects will disagree and argue it is a therapy and has therapeutic value.  Based on the definitions, therapeutic is proactive. It is ‘treating’ or ‘curing’ a disease or disorder/condition. The mindset is that of being restorative/rehabilitative or getting a person back to their baseline health/wellness status. Quality of life, on the other hand, is subjective and relates more to a person’s sense of wellbeing or comfort. These are not things a physician can put a quantitative value on, and they cannot diagnose or treat. From their perspective/mindset it is the outcome of their treatment for which ultimately, they have no control and therefore is generally not the focus. Many therapy agents can be “therapeutic,” but not every therapy (therapeutic agent) will result in a positive/good “quality of life.” We need to think of both as companions rather than an either/or. For example, a patient with chronic pain is not likely to be “cured” of their chronic pain, but the use of medical cannabis (therapeutic agent) can be used to reduce the patient’s pain to the point they may resume some (or most or all) of their baseline activities in life. Would this action not result in an improved quality of life? Of course, it would! Imagine being active your whole life and then suddenly being involved in an accident and left with pain that no one can “fix.” Medical marijuana becomes the therapeutic agent that results in an improved quality of life. The reverse could be achieved by taking medications that are not providing relief, leaving one “in a fog,” and/or not able to function. This method of therapy (therapeutic agent) results in a negative or decreased quality of life.  So, when someone talks about either term, remember to take it a step further and ask yourself, ‘how is the therapeutic (agent/source) affecting the quality of life?’ Better yet, if someone refers to their quality of life in a negative way, ask yourself what kind of therapeutic agent/source they are using and how might a different therapeutic (agent/source) improve their quality of life.  So, is medical marijuana used for therapeutic or quality of life purposes? Which is more important? As a nurse, I believe they go hand in hand, but ultimately it is always up to the patient.  Dedee Culley, RN, is a cannabis nurse and co-founder of 2 Leaf Nurses, based in Springfield, Missouri.

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