Tag Archives: THC

Opioids kill One Way; Cannabis Kills in Another Way

By John Dossett, MD, South Londonderry Township, Pennsylvania, originally published in Penn-Live on July 16, 2017, as one of the top five editorials of the week.

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

Dr. Randall’s Letter Exposes Truth of Pot Legalization

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”.

A homeless camp along the river in Pueblo, one of many makeshift residences

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

Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is an illness that is sending marijuana users to ER rooms.

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.

suicide-risk
Some people compare medical marijuana sellers to snake oil dealers of the 19th century. Certainly, the “snake bites” from the marijuana industry against those who disagree are brutal.

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.

To watch the Press Conference of May 18, Orca Media presents the proceedings of the entire Press Conference.

 

Vermont House Avoids Vote to Legalize Marijuana

Last Tuesday the Vermont House of Representatives planned to vote on a bill to allow possession and home grows for marijuana.  However, when it came to a floor vote, the pot proponents knew there were not enough votes to pass the bill.

Even though Vermont’s former governor supported legalization, a legalization bill failed miserably in the Vermont House  last year.  The new bill is less expansive than last year’s bill, but legalization appears to be headed for failure this year.

Vermont’s new governor, Phil Scott, has made it clear that the legislature needs to find safeguards against drugged driving.   There is no simple test to measure stoned driving, as there is for drunk driving.  Individuals have a legal right to refuse a blood test, and police must get a court order to administer the tests.  THC levels in the blood may go down during the waiting period.

In October, five teens were killed by a wrong-way driver who had high levels of THC in his blood.  The 36-year-old driver allegedly used marijuana to calm himself, a sign of dependence and addiction.

Crash scene of double fatality, which killed Richard Tom and Joseph Marshall on April 26, 2015. The driver who had been speeding, also had a very high THC measure in his blood. Photo: Elizabeth Murray, in the Burlington Free Press file.

A 17-year-old stoned driver hit and killed Richard Tom, an experienced cyclist with VBT Vermont Biking and Walking Vacations, in April, 2015.  That teen driver, who also died, had 36 nanograms of THC in his blood, way above Colorado’s limit of 5 nanograms. (Many people think Colorado’s limit is insufficient.)

Vermont’s Teen Use of Pot Must be Addressed

To many legislators, teen pot use is also a problem making it difficult to legalize.  The current bill has been sent to the Human Services Committee for additional work aimed to prevent youth marijuana use.    Youth marijuana usage often leads to other opiate pill and heroin abuse.  Last year Vermont had 105 opiate abuse deaths, up from 75 in 2015.

In 2014, one third of Vermont’s traffic fatalities occurred because of drugged drivers, with marijuana frequently mentioned in crash reports.   Vermont decriminalized pot in 2013.

Vermont has less than 625,000 residents, but a number of deaths in recent years were indirectly linked to marijuana use. Jody Herring, who allegedly shot and killed four people in 2015, had mental health issues.  She had initially lost custody of her daughter for lying about her marijuana use.  It was a shocking crime in the small, rural state.

brain-therapies

Successful Strategies for Deep Healing of Trauma and Pain

Using Mind-Body Connection for Deep Healing

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

Another part of the equation is that physical pain often develops as a result of stressful events lodged in the body.  It’s also possible that many ‘patients,’ including those who are veterans, actually suffer from deep emotional pain and trauma.  (Read Part 1 for the Mind-Body Connection to trauma and pain.)

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.

Dr. Libby Stuyt is Medical Director for the Circle Program at the Colorado Mental Health Institute

Besides Brain Synchronization Therapy, Dr. Stuyt recommends both EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Recovery) and Biofeedback based on heart rate variability.

Neurofeedback is another therapy which can heal trauma, PTSD and ADHD without drugs.  Even the Washington Post describes very positive outcomes from Neurofeedback for healing additional problems such as depression and severe pain.

Some therapists have found a newer technique, Brainspotting, to be  even more effective than EMDR.   The theory is that Brainspotting taps into the body’s innate self-scanning capacity to process and release focused areas that are maladaptive.  Brainspotting can often reduce and eliminate body pain and tension associated with physical conditions.

Listen to Dr. Libby Stuyt’s video about why marijuana is not an effective treatment for PTSD.

Another technique, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy provides healing in which the victim need not remember or relive the painful experiences.   This therapy changes the brain’s reactions to events to change how legacy of trauma affects the victim.  Sensorimotor therapy treats the effects of events as they recur in response to reminders of the trauma.

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.

At the Alternative Wellness Club, published in Oregonlive, 2014, patients were introduced to “dabbing.” Some of these  users  claimed to have bipolar disorder which may in fact be related to trauma–or triggered by marijuana. Dabbing increases the risk for addiction and psychosis.

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.

Read Parts 3 and 4 to find out more about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and drug policy.

*Quote is from Professor Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon.