Libby Stuyt, MD spoke at the Oregon Health Forum with Drs. Esther Choo of OHSU and Katrina Hedberg who is the State Epidemiologist and State Health Officer at the Oregon Public Health Division, and at the Oregon Law & Mental Health Conference in June 2017 on the unintended consequences of marijuana legalization. Continue reading →
Dr. Karen Randall, an emergency physician of Pueblo, Colorado, sent a letter to the physicians of Vermont. Their state legislature narrowly passed a bill that would legalize marijuana, but it’s hoped that Governor Phil Scott will veto it. There was not enough time to read Dr. Randall’s at a Press Conference on May, 18, 2016. Here’s the contents of that letter:
Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for the opportunity to share some of my experiences as a physician in a region with heavy legal marijuana use.
In 2012, Coloradans voted to pass Colorado Amendment 64 which led to the state-wide legalization of recreational marijuana beginning in January of 2014. Since then, the number of medical and recreational dispensaries in Colorado has grown to more than double the number of McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. While individual counties could and did choose to abstain from allowing recreational marijuana sales, my county, Pueblo, was one of many that embraced Amendment 64 and the projected benefits of recreational legalization, even unofficially rebranding itself the “Napa Valley of Pot”.
This led to an influx of people looking to smoke without the risk of legal consequences and to cash in on the burgeoning “pot economy”. Unfortunately, many of these people arrived only to find that the supply of marijuana-related jobs was far outweighed by the demand, and few had backup plans. Since 2014, Pueblo’s homeless population has tripled, and our low-income housing have occupancy rates of 98% or more. We have seen a drastic increase in the number of homeless camps, and social services and outreach programs are buckling under the strain.
Our medical infrastructure is also reaching critical mass. Out of the 160,000 residents of our community, roughly 115,000 are on Medicaid. As a result, we have been losing primary care providers at an alarming and unsustainable rate. The largest local clinic has been looking to hire 15 new doctors, but has only been able to hire 1 in the past two and a half years. My emergency medical group has been able to fill less than half of our open positions. The average wait time to see a new primary care provider is months with the wait for a specialist even longer, and many primary care physicians in the area are no longer taking new Medicaid patients.
Additionally, the legalization of marijuana has led to normalization of behavior that in my professional opinion is strongly impacting our youth. Despite sales being legally restricted to those ages 21 and over, the Healthy Kids Survey of 2015 shows: 16% of Pueblo High School kids under the age of 13 have tried marijuana, 30% of high school kids had smoked within 30 days of the survey, 64% feel that it would be easy or very easy to get marijuana, and that 6.3 and 6.6% of respondents have used heroin and methamphetamines respectively, compared to 2% for the rest of Colorado. The number of ED visits for cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, accidental
pediatric ingestions, accidental adult ingestions and psychosis have sharply risen. There has been an increase in the number of babies testing positive for marijuana at birth (many internet and dispensaries are now recommending marijuana for nausea in pregnancy).
The potency of marijuana has risen tremendously since legalization, which is also a cause for significant concern. Almost all of what we do know about marijuana is based on studies where the marijuana was 1-3 mg of THC. Currently, dabbing provides 80-90 mg of THC; edibles provide 10 mg THC per bite and are frequently packaged in quantities to total 100 mg of THC. Fortunately, legislation has passed so that edibles must be packaged in safety packages and can no longer be sold as appealing candy gummies, suckers, etc. Currently, law requires that chocolate be labeled with a stamp and dose quantity but it still looks like a chocolate bar to a child.
Ads and claims to the health benefits of marijuana are rampant on the internet with reported cures for almost every ailment, yet there is very little research, if any to support those “health benefits” and frequently people come to the area with a disease process (for instance, Parkinson’s disease) and purchase marijuana. Many of those looking for cures are seniors who are not toleratant to the dosage/strength of the current marijuana being marked and they come to the ED with side effects.
I deeply appreciate having been given a platform to share my experiences with you today, and I strongly encourage the physicians of Vermont to consider the broader medical, economic, and social ramifications of the legalization of marijuana.
Thank you for your attention, Dr. Karen Randall, FAAEM Southern Colorado Emergency Medicine Associates Pueblo Colorado
Dr. Randall presented her experiences at a press conference in Pueblo on October 20, 2016.
The average medical marijuana cardholder in California is a 32-year-old male who uses it for chronic pain. If so many young people have so much chronic pain, it’s tempting to think medical marijuana is for “anyone who can fake an ache,” according to Professor Jon Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon
Two young women who wrote to Parents Opposed to Pot explained their need for medical marijuana to deal with traumatic childhoods. One said it was because her mother had committed suicide, while the other said she had experienced traumatizing sexual abuse.
Using marijuana in order to numb painful feelings, or for getting high, will only mask the underlying emotional pain. In all cases of psychological issues, including PTSD, marijuana works against true healing, no matter how much temporary relief it provides.
21st Century Strategies for Healing
Since pain or disease (dis ease) is imbalance, the body which created the disease can also be the body which heals the disease.
Dr. Libby Stuyt, a professional advisor to Parents Opposed to Pot uses Brain Synchronization Therapy to heal trauma in the body and bad memories. The neuroplasticity of the brain means that even post-traumatic experiences can be weakened or discarded. At the same time, the brain can relearn forgotten neural pathways.
Besides Brain Synchronization Therapy, Dr. Stuyt recommends both EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Recovery) and Biofeedback based on heart rate variability.
Treating Root Causes Rather than Just the Symptoms
The good news is that there are ways to treat PTSD and chronic pain that don’t involve drugs, ways that treat the root causes rather than symptoms. “Medical” marijuana does not provide deep healing.
Medical marijuana is an addiction-for-profit industry which needs new users and promotes long-term use. Habitual users run the risk of becoming psychotic. Like continuous opiate users, they may also develop addiction.
The recent report from National Academy of Science found marijuana can give moderate relief to three medical conditions, pain being one of the conditions. Although the human body has cannabinoid receptors, marijuana’s cannabinoids are foreign to our bodies. They’re not endo-cannabinoids, the body’s natural occurring chemicals, but exo-cannabinoids. With marijuana use over time, THC will replace the cannabinoids associated with joy and happiness.
Therefore, it’s hard to claim THC is truly “natural” for humans.
Mind-body healing solutions are the “natural” solutions, and they cannot be addictive. They offer help for chronic suffering in ways “medical” marijuana and pharmaceutical medicines cannot help.
Marijuana-related suicide is a controversial topic because other websites include commenters who claim marijuana saved their lives. Pot interferes with the reward center of the brain, just like cocaine, alcohol and heroin. So when someone dependent on the drug doesn’t have it, their depression or anxiety becomes stronger than previously. After prolonged use, the brain eventually doesn’t function as well.
For this reason, it’s much wiser to rely on yoga, counseling, walking, and other exercise for depression and anxiety. (Others will say that anti-depressants are safer, although we won’t actually endorse them, and don’t think they’re always necessary.)
Marijuana increases the risk for psychosis more than any other drug. Marijuana is not the panacea the pot industry wants you to believe.
In today’s world, students have huge problems and challenges even if they don’t abuse substances. Marijuana is the most likely drug of abuse for teens. Any substance abuse –marijuana, alcohol, opiates, other drugs or a combination – generally makes the depression more difficult to overcome.
The town of Pueblo, Colorado has had an alarming trend of suicides among its teens, at least five this year. Although local officials link these deaths to bullying, Pueblo is infiltrated with marijuana and other drugs. Dr. Steven Simerville, head of pediatrics at a Pueblo hospital, has spoken about the connection between marijuana and teen suicide. In October, 2016, he said that all but one of teens who attempted suicide had THC in their toxicology reports.
A few years ago studies showed that 28% of all high school students are depressed. There are plenty of reasons for teens to be depressed in this society: hormonal change, social pressure, relationships and academics. The social media adds a layer of complication to the problem with cyber bullying. When a teen becomes an adult, additional challenges emerge, and for some, entry into adulthood is jolting.
Suicide is Increasing Above National Rate in Colorado
The opposite is occurring in Colorado. Suicide rates in Colorado have reached all-time highs, according to a recent report by the Colorado Health Institute. Each one of Colorado’s 21 health regions had a suicide rate higher than the national average.
Those old enough to go into dispensaries can see how the pot industry advertises marijuana to treat depression or anxiety. Dispensaries prey on the vulnerable. For veterans and those without a job, it’s hard to resist.
When the pot industry tells us that “no one ever died from marijuana,” they’re being dishonest. There’s a popular strain of marijuana called Purple Suicide. There’s also a line of vape pens called Suicide Girls, specifically marketed for using honey/hash oil. Makers of the vape pens and marketers of Purple Suicide are onto something: marijuana use increases the suicide risk.
When they assert the numbers of those who die from alcohol each year, please ask who is tracking deaths from marijuana. Maybe it is time for the CDC to start tracking marijuana-related deaths. Please read Part 3, The Common Element.