Advice From the Trenches

Slow Your Roll: One reader wants to know if marijuana is a help or hindrance

Dear C and Dr. B;

I see people all around me who have various habits, all of which could be considered problem vices in a certain light. For instance, marijuana. But some people seem to be able to use it responsibly. I’ve known many adults who manage to hold jobs, raise kids, and drive their cars without ending up in jail or rehab. And I know people who use it medically who never increase their dosage or need to try stronger highs.

So here is my situation – I turn to marijuana to help cope with depression and a chronic autoimmune disorder. I never increase the amount I use or let it interfere with my work. In the past, doctors tried EVERY antidepressant in the book on me, but they left me unmotivated to the point where I didn’t want to do ANYTHING. My boyfriends would break up with me because I lost interest in sex. The trade-off wasn’t worth it.

However, according to my sister’s shrink, who thinks marijuana is nothing but a gateway street drug, my marijuana use IS a problem. He says that the FDA hasn’t approved it and he’s seen it mess people up far more than it has helped them. I think his opinion is skewed because he has nothing but dysfunctional patients who would likely abuse any substance they used, including food. What do you think?         – Potunia

Dr. B says: The jury is out still on marijuana. There is no standardization and research has only recently started because before this, it was illegal. I have heard lots of anecdotal reports from people like you saying it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I have read a lot of preliminary medical reports showing it has no greater long-term positive use than placebo or it has a lot of potential negative long-term consequences. It also seems to affect everyone differently. Although I am not convinced it has any long-term medical use I can’t give you an official opinion. 

C says: At this point, I want to slap every doctor in the face who uses that “there is no scientific research” excuse to deny the possible validity of medical marijuana. The fact is, until May 2021 the federal government banned medical research on the grounds that marijuana was a Schedule One street drug that had no medical value.

Let us not forget that the standardized and FDA sanctioned drug industry is the same group that pushed Fentanyl and oxycodone on us, fueling the opioid crisis and killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. Their lack of approval for medical marijuana does not disturb me nearly as much as it does the AMA, which hasn’t yet figured out how to make money off of medical marijuana.

Dr. B is right: He can’t give you an official opinion – and most of his experience is with dysfunctional patients who are more likely to abuse substances. But I seriously doubt that ANY doctor who downplays the potential medical value of marijuana has had any experience with responsible use. There are many MM remedies that cause absolutely no high at all. But every doctor against medical marijuana speaks as if MM use is all about the high.

I have interviewed Compassion Center patients who have had first-hand experience with medical marijuana over the course of decades. They all turned to it because the FDA-approved drugs for their conditions left them with no energy or quality of life and myriad side effects. Pharmaceuticals have a fairly dismal record of success with many chronic illnesses, especially autoimmune disorders; yet every doctor against MM is willing to dismiss the success stories from thousands of responsible adults as purely anecdotal.

In all fairness, I realize that board certified doctors live in fear of lawsuits, fines and repercussions, so it is logical for them to deny any view for which the board would reprimand or sue them. But they are holding back a much more viable and sustainable treatment than what the pharmaceutical companies have to offer. In 2018, a Johns Hopkins study found that more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year from medical errors; other reports claim the numbers to be as high as 440,000. Since the opioid crisis, the figures have grown exponentially. NO ONE has died yet from medical marijuana. You may draw your own conclusions.

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