By Ken Finn, MD, Springs Rehabilitation, PC, Colorado Springs
Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been supporting the use of marijuana to curb the opioid crisis. Dr. Gupta does not have specialty training in Pain Medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Pain Management, or Anesthesia. I have been practicing Pain Medicine in Colorado for 24 years and I have seen patients referred to me on very high dose opioids, reporting very high levels of pain, and using marijuana for pain control, making no clinical sense. In discussions with these patients, and overall, a significant percent report that their use of marijuana does not help with their presenting pain symptoms. I have had a rare patient who opt to taper their opioids and use marijuana, and all of those continue to report high levels of pain. Continue reading →
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting that between 30,000 and 40,000 Americans are dying each year from opioid overdoses. Most of these are not suicides but, are the consequences of people using “stuff” which is profoundly more potent than they imagined. From our local communities, to the state, and federal government levels, we are alarmed and we should be.
Parallel to the “opioid epidemic” is the “cannabis epidemic” which is going unnoticed and unreported. We see weekly hype about so called “medical marijuana,” but, little about the tragic consequences of cannabis overdoses.
Why? One reason is that opioid overdoses kill and cannabis takes the lives of its victims in a less dramatic way. Cannabis-induced psychosis robs the victims of their meaningful life.
The proverb says, “There are many ways to lose one’s life and dying is just one of them.”
The parallel to opioids is that the “weed” of today has been hybridized (genetically engineered) to be 5 – 6 times more potent than the weed of 20 years ago (4% THC compared to 19% THC). In addition, the contemporary delivery systems (example- vaping) increase the amount of THC getting to the brain. These unexpectedly high “doses” of today may include manic psychosis and schizophrenia like symptoms. The victim didn’t understand what she/he was getting. What was expected to be a few hours of pleasure has become a life-changing psychosis.
I predict that our fascination with “medical marijuana” will only accelerate this tragic epidemic of THC-induced psychosis.
If there is to be a place for “medical marijuana,” give it to the FDA where it can be studied by legitimate scientists who are not funded by the producers, distributors and charlatan practitioners. Clearly, the profits are huge and the costs to human lives are huge.
There may be a few serious conditions in which a small amount of cannabis helps to relieve suffering. Example: End stage cancer. Responsible physicians will use it wisely and compassionately just as they do with opioids.
The tragic hidden problem is aided by a very small number of “charlatan physicians” who will sell their souls to the callous industry. For a fee and without being seen, cannabis users can receive a “certificate of need.” This document allows the user to go into a retail cannabis dispensary and purchase whatever he/she wants from a large inventory of cannabis products.
Said again, opioids kill by suppressing respiration. Cannabinoids ruin lives by inducing psychosis. Both are tragic.
Dr. Dossett is a pediatrician in Hershey, Pennsylvania
Foodies who admire Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma include parents opposed to marijuana and its manipulation into an increasingly potent, dangerous drug.
Pollan is writing a book about possible medical applications for psychedelics, which would fit nicely into an agenda promoted by the Drug Policy Alliance, MAPS and Erowid. Surreptitiously, these pro-drug lobbyists and groups are trying to legalize all drugs. If they get popular writers on board, it will be so much easier.
MAPS pushes pot as treatment for PTSD, even though an important study from Yale suggests that pot worsens PTSD in veterans. Bad psychiatric treatments are nothing new. At one time, the public also believed in lobotomies as a treatment for mental illness.
Drug Policy Alliance uses “social justice” reasons to push for legalization of all drugs, first through decriminalization.* The social justice angle isn’t a good argument, because drug dealers, legal and illegal, target minorities and poor communities. Dig a little deeper and social justice appears to be the excuse, not the true reason the DPA argues for drug legalization.
Psychedelics, Alternative Reality and Psychosis
Drug advocates are promoting many psychedelics as medicine: psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, marijuana, MDMA (Ecstasy) and ketamine. Psychiatrists of the ’50s and ’60s experimented with these drugs as psychiatric treatments. The most famous one, Scottish Psychiatrist R.D. Laing, experimented with LSD to treat some patients. Although he had genuine empathy towards the patients, Laing’s methods and those of his followers are often considered worse than failure. (Psychiatrist Isidora Ranjit-Singh explains: Laing “didn’t understand the interaction between illicit substances such as LSD and cannabis and mental health: illicit drugs are a contributory factor in psychosis. LSD is an awful drug that can result in seemingly psychotic flashbacks which can continue after the patient has stopped using it.”)
As long as we do not know the cause of many psychological issues, using psychedelics is like playing with fire. Emil Kraepelin, father of modern Psychiatry, maintained that catatonia and schizophrenia wouldn’t be solved until we know their cause. It doesn’t always boil down to genetics. When the root cause of a mental issue is trauma, there are successful therapeutic models and we don’t need new experimental drugs.
As for schizophrenia, marijuana is the one known trigger which can lead to this condition of permanent psychosis.
Psychedelics Study is Chance to Learn from Past Mistakes
Movers and shakers behind “medical” marijuana use the term “compassion” as a marketing scheme. To avoid FDA scrutiny, they devised a scam, recorded on videotapes, to bring about full legalization. Perhaps they’re pushing new “medicinal” uses for hallucinogenic drugs for similar reasons.
Ethan Nadelmann, formerly executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, explained the underlying plan on Reddit. “Michael Pollan’s forthcoming book on psychedelics and medicine will take media interest to yet another level. The more people know about this, the faster psychedelics will be legally accepted as medicines.” Nadelmann engages his followers with wishful thinking. In a TED talk, he said: “Our desire to alter our consciousness may be as fundamental as our desire for food, companionship, and sex.”
When Pollan has spoken to the press, he mentions psychedelics as “palliative” care in people facing the end of life. It sounds familiar, because the pot lobbyists initially promoted medical marijuana for end-of-life care. In reality, it’s mostly young men with pain who use “medical” marijuana, not the cancer and AIDs patients for whom it was intended. More recently pot advocates promote it to treat psychiatric disorders.
If hallucinogens can be used help in controlled settings, would those who become “caregivers” practice snake oil medicine? Would they set up they type of shams that plague “medical” marijuana? Again the public could be tricked, since everyone has compassion for the terminally ill.
There are strong ethical reasons not to endorse psychedelics, or to give so much power to psychiatrists and gurus. It would entail knowingly utilizing drugs that can make certain people worse. Furthermore, it would put incredible power into the hands of “caregivers” and psychiatrists. If teens get the idea that a drug is “medicinal,” they will think it safe to use –by anyone on any occasion.
When the US Government Has been “Right”
Although the US government gave some bad dietary advice over the past decades, it has revised some of the mistakes. Diet dictocrats now recommend eating eggs, the right kind of fats and fewer grains. Americans are eating better because they listened to critics such as Michael Pollan and many others.
The US government’s historical evaluation of and classification of marijuana in 1970 was never wrong. Judges and the FDA have consistently rejected the reclassification of marijuana.
Drug advocates wish to normalize drug use in order to capitalize on it. By using drugs, they hope to bypass the hard work it takes to obtain true spiritual growth. Modern America is not comparable to the ancient, ritualistic and shamanistic cultures that traditionally used psychedelics. We need our food to keep us alive, but we don’t need intoxicating, hallucinogenic drugs to sustain us.
In 1978, 10.7 per cent of U.S. high school students smoked cannabis every day. Survey data shows that marijuana use peaked in 1979 and was followed by a period of dramatic decline until 1992, when the rate of high school students who smoked pot daily dropped below two per cent.
Between 1979 and 1991, a huge prevention campaign in North America coincided with the dramatic decrease in drug use. Parents, teachers, police, youth leaders, social workers, churches and the children themselves all got involved. It worked. Users fell from 23 million to 14 million, cannabis and cocaine use halved and daily pot use dropped by 75 per cent.
Anyone who doesn’t believe that prohibition works either doesn’t know, or doesn’t remember, the rise and fall of drug use in the 1980s, and what it took to turn kids off the use of drugs.