Medical Marijuana – the Natural Alternative

Medical marijuana is catching on in Florida.  We are now well past 130,000 patients on the registry and it is predicted there will eventually be over 400,000 patients using cannabis in Florida. We have been getting great results with chronic pain patients- back pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, severe arthritis. These folks are often on narcotics, Gabapentin and steroids. These drugs can be addicting and have some serious side effects. Cannabis can usually replace these medications and has an amazing safety profile. And it works! Parkinson’s and seizure patients find good control of symptoms as do people with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.  PTSD patients and those with similar conditions like severe anxiety and panic attacks find low dose cannabis soothes anxiety and promotes sleep better and safer than Xanax, Ambien and Klonopin.   Cancer patients appreciate it for its anti nausea effects as well as its appetite stimulating ability. Plus, there is some recent research showing cannabis seems to slow down cancer cell growth and augment the efficacy of chemotherapy. It’s an amazing natural medicine and we should be very grateful that Florida has become progressive enough to recognize this.

Now there are 31 states that allow medical marijuana and the list is growing rapidly. People seem to be waking up to the very strange and unfair way cannabis has been demonized by the federal government and incorrectly placed into the category of a Schedule 1 drug, which says it is a dangerous, addicting drug with no clinical usefulness. This is wrong. Even the government knows this. While we have all these hoops to jump through and government intrusion into our ability to access it, the FDA has been granting patents to drug companies on the ingredients in the plant that it claims are dangerous and not useful. THC, the ingredient in the plant that causes euphoria, has been around as Marinol the synthetic drug for years. It can be used for nausea in cancer patients and appetite for AIDs patients. CBD, the other main compound in the cannabis plant, has been recently been bestowed a patent to GW pharmaceuticals who basically just took the compound out of the plant, put it in a vial and now sell it as a prescription for seizure patients for about $32,000 a year. It is not even a fraction of that price when obtained from the natural plant, but that is not a fact that the FDA/ Pharmaceutical companies want you to know.

Besides the continued ban on the natural plant whilst at the same time endorsing companies that purify and sell its extracts under drug patients, there is another reason to be concerned about what is going on with this plant politically.  Almost all studies have shown that to achieve the best results from cannabis, whether for cancer or for seizures or anxiety, the whole plant extract works much better than any particular molecules extracted and purified from the plant. Pharmaceutical companies can extract and purify the individual components and mark up the price but in fact whatever they come up with lacks the potency of the whole plant which contains over a hundred cannabinoids besides THC and CBD as well as these molecules called terpenes. This effect is know as the entourage effect.That’s why medical cannabis is preferred by cancer patients over Marinol ( pure THC) and Plant extract with THC and CBD works better than pure THC or CBD to inhibit cancer growth. It’s thought that whole plant extract works better than pure CBD which now is sold as Epidiolex for the before mentioned $32,000 a year for prescription.

One common misconception about medical cannabis is that people take it to get high. People don’t seek medical marijuana to get high, they seek it to treat their medical condition. The products used medical are typically fairly high in their CBD concentration which works well as an anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety medicine and also counteracts the THC euphoric effect. Most people don’t want too much of the euphoric effect, at least in the day time and so they will use a product during the day that relieves the symptoms without any psychoactive effect and then may choose a product for night time use that makes them sleepy. That’s one of the things people need to adjust to. When you have a medical marijuana card, you can pick your own products and adjust the dose with the help of your physician.

I have been amazed at the success we have seen with medical cannabis.  If you want to learn more, go to our website

We do frequent seminars in Crystal River and the Villages and we are always available to answer questions and dispel myths at 362-601-4200.

Bob Goethe, MD

Board Certified Anesthesiologist