Why medical cannabis?? As a physician, I probably receive this question 50 times a day from patients, colleagues, family, and friends. The answer is multi-faceted, but comes down to a simple concept. Quality of Life. On any given day, my clinic waiting room is an eclectic mix of people from all walks of life. Whether it is a Vietnam era Veteran, a Kindergarten teacher, a Lawyer, or an elderly retired couple, the principle is the same. They all have fear of side effects, addiction, or uncontrolled symptoms in regards to pharmaceuticals. Some have years of experience with cannabis, while others have only heard rumors of possible outcomes. Again, the desired outcome is the same, Quality of Life. The medical histories are as different as the backgrounds of the patients; Chronic pain, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Intractable nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, Epilepsy, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Neuropathy, Fibromyalgia, etc…
Oklahoma has just recently joined the growing number of states with Medicinal Cannabis programs. Yet even in its infantile stage, we have rapidly grown in knowledge, numbers, and success stories. Oklahoma rates among the highest in the United States for Opiate prescriptions per capita. This figure alone can be staggering when we look at the untold number of overdoses and cases of addiction that have plagued our state for decades. For once, patients now have an alternative that can address their pain, improve their Quality of Life, and have little to no risk of overdose or addiction. It still amazes me to this day, the number of patients that thank me at the conclusion of their recommendation visit with tears in their eyes. It just demonstrates what the idea of hope can do and accomplish in regards to someone’s well being. This alone has given me a whole new appreciation for being a Physician and having the capability to genuinely help a patient.
For decades, cannabis has been vilified, while pharmaceutical regimens have been treated as gospel. As modern medicine continues to evolve, we can NOT continue to ignore the amazing response our patients are obtaining with cannabis. The successes are numerous: Opiate cessation in regards to pain, Tumor shrinkage and response in cancer, Panic disorders resolved, quality sleep obtained after years of Insomnia, and Epilepsy controlled without anticonvulsants. The fact remains, that there are still no reported deaths attributable to cannabis. This truth does not carry over to the pharmaceutical realm, where even aspirin has well over 1,000.
Then, let’s not forget 6630507, the United States Patent on Cannabinoids as a Neuroprotectant. What kind of promise does this hold for our numerous veterans being treated for Traumatic Brain Injury? Neuropathic pain following amputation? The opportunity for study is almost overwhelming when we start to really analyze the multitude of medicinal properties found in the various strains of cannabis, of which there are currently hundreds, if not thousands depending on minute genetic differences.
What I hope that our medical cannabis program brings is change. Change in how physicians view symptom control, side effect profiles, and patient Quality of Life. Change in how We listen to patients. And lastly, change in the social “stigma” and view of cannabis. All things that should be easy, but are too often ignored or overlooked as simply “not important”. I know one thing, that I will continue to educate any who will listen and work to increase access to anyone that needs it.