Above the Fray Integrated Therapies
These times they are a changing. Cannabis, once considered the “gateway” drug to death and self destruction is now emerging as arguably the most important plant in human history. Even industrial hemp for example can be used to produce almost anything, including food.
Myths and Misconceptions
Consider the Following:
- Marijuana is not medicine, has no use in medical care and is appropriately Schedule 1
- Marijuana is a dangerous drug.
- Marijuana is highly addictive.
- Marijuana is a “gateway” drug.
- Marijuana is pure THC.
- Marijuana kills brain cells.
- Marijuana causes cancer.
- Regulating marijuana sends the wrong message to our children.
- Marijuana causes schizophrenia.
- Marijuana is more potent today and thus very dangerous.
Every one of these statements is false.
Cannabis has been used for thousands of years as a medication.
In the early 20th century, pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly, Parke Davis, and Merck created extracts from cannabis that were prescribed by physicians as can effective analgesic, and antispasmodic. Based on experience and trial and error, many inflammatory conditions were effectively treated with these legal extracts.
The flowering portion of the female plant is the subject of much scrutiny and misinformation. Classified as a Schedule I narcotic with no known medical use, cannabis has for thousands of years been used and abused, worshiped and criminalized, illegally cultivated, (and illegally distributed resulting in massive prison sentences), legally cultivated, bought and sold on the black market, the sustainer of countless illegal drug cartels, and now legally obtainable in many states.
Based on the dogged perseverance of its proponents, the emerging cannabis revolution is changing our country and the way we perceive its use, both medically and recreationally. Even in states where cannabis is not a legal substance to use or even possess, law enforcement is currently undergoing a
reevaluation in their approach and tolerance.
Although cannabis is still considered a Level I narcotic by the DEA, and although the federal government stands firm on its hardline approach, the public acceptance has steadily grown from 12% in 1969 to nearly 60% today (Gallup). In Florida there is nearly 80% approval in recent poles.
The evidence now is clear that following the end of alcohol prohibition in the 1930’s, the federal government spearhead a campaign to demonize cannabis. Consequently, the public as well as healthcare professionals, were taught that “marijuana” is a drug of abuse. By 1941, cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia and anyone using cannabis was the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. This allowed the DEA to place cannabis in Schedule 1, the most forbidden drug category. Schedule 1 means that the drug has no currently accepted medical use, is highly addictive, and is not safe. Schedule 1 includes heroin, LSD, and marijuana.
Many informed physicians, researchers, and individuals questioned why cannabis would be placed in Schedule 1. President Nixon in 1972 appointed experts to review the science and so the Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse was formed. Now known as the Shafer Commission (after its chairman),the resulting report stated that cannabis did not meet any of the criteria forSchedule 1.
Nixon ignored this recommendation, and included marijuana in his “War on Drugs”. This single corrupt decision has created more havoc, destruction, misery, and injustice than any decision made by any governmental official in the history of governmental officials ever.
I remember when the war on drugs began. As a medical student, I too was taught about the utter evilness of marijuana. As a father, I tried to teach my children about the evilness of marijuana. I prescribed Schedule 2 medications whenever my patients needed pain relief. Presently I can write scripts for thousands of Schedule 2 medications that cause addiction, and kill. And yet if I even suggest the use of cannabis, I am breaking Federal Law. I could lose my medical license and go to jail.
CANNABIS IS NOT ADDICTIVE, AND HAS RESULTED IN EXACTLY ZERO DEATHS DURING 5,000 YEARS OF USE!
What’s wrong with this picture?
In 2016, many ballot initiatives and legislative bills will unfold. Florida with a population second only to California (19.8 million vs 38.8 million), will re-visit this initiative after its narrow defeat in 2014.
Expectations run high based on recent research that dispels major concerns for cannabis use, especially as a medication. We now know that many previous studies placing cannabis as a dangerous narcotic were either falsified or misinterpreted. In fact, as a comparison OxyContin, a Level 2 drug is directly the cause of over 20,000 deaths annually. Cannabis death related cases worldwide add up to exactly zero.
The CBD portion of cannabis has been proven to be effective in an ever expanding list of medical conditions and there are no contraindications or long term adverse side affects to its use.
The grand experiment of legal cannabis is currently proceeding very well in Washington, Washington DC, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska (both medical and recreational). Medical cannabis is legal in 19 other states. The predicted increases in crime in states with recreational laws have proven to be inaccurate. According to data from the city of Denver and the Colorado Dept. of Transportation, violent crime as well as traffic fatalities decreased by 2.2% and 3% respectively in 2014.
Recently researchers have discovered the body’s endocannabinoid signaling system. This means the body has its own system for forming and using cannabis substances in the same way we use other natural substances for body function and regulation. This explains how cannabis use can benefit patients dealing with many symptoms of disease and medical conditions. In fact, using the many forms of cannabis may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans.
DOCTORS THE WORLD OVER ARE DISCOVERING THAT CANNABIS PRODUCTS HAVE ENABLED PATIENTS TO REDUCE OR ELIMINATE MANY MEDICATIONS THAT HAVE HARMFUL SIDE EFFECTS.
Many drugs with serious and dangerous side effects (opioids, sedatives, anti-inflammatories, and many others) can be reduced or discontinued. AND the patients feel better, become more productive, and have an increased quality of life. For chronic pain management, cannabis patients have reduced the use of opioids by 50% or more and have reduced addiction as well as death due to overdose.
Cannabis medications are not addictive, there are no contraindications for use, and it is impossible to die from an overdose of cannabis.
Clinical research has shown cannabis to be useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, epilepsy, alcoholism, PTDS, antibiotic resistant infections, neurological disorders, and even cancer. Research is ongoing, and with at least 85 different effective substances in this plant, (cannabinoids), we are just beginning to understand the full potential for treating a variety of illnesses and conditions
Let’s revisit the list of myths and make these new definitive
- 1. Marijuana can be used effectively and safely as a medication for many conditions.
- 2. Marijuana can be safely regulated, thus sensibly taxed and controlled.
- 3. Cannabis is not addictive.
- 4. Marijuana is not a “gateway” drug.
- 5.The cannabis plant contains hundreds of useful compounds, that in various
combinations can specifically treat many medical conditions.
- 6. Marijuana does not kill brain cells, and has actually been shown to be
- 7. Cannabis does not cause cancer, and has actually demonstrated antitumor
- 8. The compassionate and regulated use of marijuana sends exactly the correct
message to our children.
- 9. Marijuana has been shown to be useful in treating some cases of schizophrenia. It has never been proven as a causative factor in mental illness.
- 10. Marijuana plant cultivated today is higher in THC content, but at the same
time higher in CBD content. CBD has been shown to counter or modulate the psychogenic effects of THC (the entourage effect).
During my thirty plus years as a practicing physical and surgeon, I have strived and dedicated my professional experience and expertise to helping patients feel and be better. I feel a twinge of guilt and shame when I think about how I may have contributed to the massive addiction problems our nation faces due to medically prescribed legal medications. Yes, I went by the book, I prescribed pain medications strictly on a basis of medical necessity and compassion.
Now these times are changing.
As citizens of the world we are obligated to study the issue of Medical Marijuana and to do what we can to assure every person has the right to legally choose this amazing natural substance in their quest for health and wellbeing. “Above the Fray” is my effort to right the many wrongs that continue to occur in medical practice today. It requires a complete “Awareness” of the many natural options we have to combat acute and chronic illnesses that plague our society. It requires a new perspective on what can be accomplished by returning to our innate ability
to change and expand our thinking. It requires a critical look at our government, our food supply, our Pharmacopeia, and ourselves.