Tag Archives: physicians

The stark difference in how doctors and the government view marijuana

By Christopher Ingraham August 29 at 11:23 AM

 

Nathaniel P. Morris is a resident physician at Stanford Hospital specializing in mental health. He recently penned a strongly worded op-ed for ScientificAmerican.com on the differences between how some in the medical community view marijuana and how the federal government regulates it.

“The federal government’s scheduling of marijuana bears little relationship to actual patient care,” he wrote in the essay published last week. “The notion that marijuana is more dangerous or prone to abuse than alcohol (not scheduled), cocaine (Schedule II), methamphetamine (Schedule II), or prescription opioids (Schedules II, III, and IV) doesn’t reflect what we see in clinical medicine.”

Here’s Morris’ money quote:

For most health care providers, marijuana is an afterthought.

We don’t see cannabis overdoses. We don’t order scans for cannabis-related brain abscesses. We don’t treat cannabis-induced heart attacks. In medicine, marijuana use is often seen on par with tobacco or caffeine consumption — something we counsel patients about stopping or limiting, but nothing urgent to treat or immediately life-threatening.

He contrasts that with the terrible effects of alcohol he sees in the emergency room every day, like car crash victims and drunk patients choking on their own vomit. Morris points out that excessive drinking causes 88,000 deaths per year, according to the CDC.

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[Every minute, someone gets arrested for marijuana possession in the U.S.]

The medical and research communities have known for some time that marijuana is one of the more benign substances you can put in your body relative to other illicit drugs. A recent longitudinal study found that chronic, long-term marijuana use is about as bad for your physical health as not flossing. Compared to alcohol, it’s virtually impossible to overdose on marijuana alone. On a per-user basis, marijuana sends fewer people to the emergency room than alcohol or other drugs.

The scientific consensus was best captured in a 2010 study in the Lancet, which polled several dozen researchers working in addiction and drug policy. The researchers rated commonly used recreational drugs according to the harm they pose to individuals who use them, as well as the harm they pose to society as a whole. Here’s what their results looked like:

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The experts rated marijuana as less harmful to both users and to society than either tobacco or alcohol, or indeed than many other recreational drugs, such as heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. Alcohol was, by far, the most socially harmful drug the committee rated, as well as one of the most harmful drugs to individual users.

Research like this is one reason surveys have shown a substantial majority of doctors support the use of medical marijuana. And although big medical groups, such as the American Medical Association, haven’t shifted gears on marijuana, other groups, such as the California Medical Association, are now openly calling for marijuana legalization.

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This year has also seen the formation of the nation’s first doctor’s group devoted to legalizing marijuana, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation. The group views marijuana legalization primarily as a public health issue.

None of this is to say, of course, that marijuana is completely “safe” or “harm-free.” As with any drug, using too much weed can lead to dependency on it. And as with any other drug, marijuana can have particularly harmful effects on young, developing minds.

But the federal approach to marijuana has stood at odds with the science on the drug for decades. As far back as the 1970s, an expert report commissioned by Richard Nixon recommended that the federal government decriminalize marijuana use, given the drug’s mild effects.

Nixon, of course, ignored the report’s findings. In the years since, there have been hundreds of thousands of arrests for marijuana possession each year, people have lost their homes and their property over suspicion of marijuana use, and decades of racially biased policing tactics have decimated many minority communities.

How marijuana legalization is working out so far

Play Video1:58

What we can learn about legal marijuana from Washington, Colorado and Oregon. (Daron Taylor, Danielle Kunitz/The Washington Post)

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Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

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Docs don’t like medical marijuana

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Published: June 22, 2015

 

 

 

State legislatures across the country are legalizing medical marijuana, but the nation’s physicians aren’t requesting these laws. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Society of Addiction Medicine are both against medical marijuana laws. The American Medical Association doesn’t support them either.

Groups representing patients aren’t behind these laws. The American Cancer Society hasn’t demanded them, and the Glaucoma Foundation even warns patients against using the drug.

Instead, the demand comes from groups like the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project. These are not medical organizations. They are part of a pro-legalization lobby supported by pro-marijuana billionaires. And they’ve apparently convinced state legislators to ignore some very serious problems.

The biggest problem is that medical marijuana laws are responsible for most of the growth in adolescent use. According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, teen use in the United States surged between 2005 and 2011. But it didn’t surge equally in all states.

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that the number of teens who smoked pot over the past month increased by 33 percent in medical marijuana states, but only by 6 percent in the rest of the country. In 2005, only about 20 percent of the U.S. population lived in medical marijuana states, yet those states accounted for more than two-thirds of the increase in adolescent use between 2005 and 2011. If it weren’t for states with medical marijuana laws, teen use would have barely increased at all.

There’s also evidence that even among adults, nearly all the “medical” marijuana goes to drug abuse. The largest survey of medical marijuana patients, published in 2014 in the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, found that only 6 percent reported using marijuana for cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, hepatitis C or ALS. The vast majority, 91 percent, got their marijuana for pain.

While some seriously ill patients are helped by marijuana, there are four prescription cannabinoid medications that are just as helpful.

State legislators who want what’s best for the country should ignore the pro-marijuana lobbyists and instead listen to the AMA, the Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society of Addiction Medicine. If we want to rein in teenage marijuana use and prevent widespread abuse of the drug, instead of passing new state medical marijuana laws, we should get rid of the ones we already have.

DR. ED GOGEK Is an addiction psychiatrist and the author of “Marijuana Debunked: A handbook for Parents, Pundits, and Politicians Who Want to Know the Case Against Legalization,” which is scheduled to be released in August by Chiron Publications. He wrote this for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Texas’ New Medical Marijuana Law Could Send Doctors to Jail

By Stephen Young

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

 

Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law that is intended to make cannabis-based oils with low levels of THC legally available to people who suffer from intractable epilepsy.The problem is, no one is likely to be able to get it.

State Senator Kevin Eltife announced the plan to legalize CBD oil in January. He was careful to emphasize that patients would not be able to get high from the oil, because THC content would be limited to 5 percent. Marijuana advocates and potential patients criticized the law, saying it failed to account for the benefits of whole-plant marijuana therapy and interfered with patients’ and doctors’ ability to seek out the best treatment available for epilepsy or other conditions.

"I’m glad the we’re talking about medical marijuana with some actual sincerity now in Texas, because this entire state is just tragically behind the rest of the country," Shaun McAlister, the president of DFW NORML said. "On the other hand, I’m really nervous about a CBD-only push because, for one thing, CBD-only legislation represents a really shallow understanding of what cannabis actually is and what it can do."

Still, Eltife’s bill snaked its way successfully through the Legislature, despite the objections and language that requires doctors to "prescribe" the oil to their patients.

Unfortunately a doctor cannot prescribe what the federal government considers a Schedule I substance without a DEA license, and CBD is a Schedule I substance. In other states, the “prescription” is referred to as a “recommendation” so that doctors can legally suggest that patients use it, says Amanda Reiman, the manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance says.

Tamar Todd, the Drug Policy Alliance’s Director of Marijuana Law and Policy, compared the Texas law to a 1996 Arizona law that did not lead to a single patient getting CBD oil.

Arizona passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislation in 2010. Texas marijuana reform advocates are hoping for a similar evolution in the Lone Star State.

“While this program leaves most patients behind and we’re concerned about its functionality, today is one for the history books. The Texas Legislature is sending a resounding message: Marijuana is medicine. We commend our Texas lawmakers and look forward to continuing this conversation when the 85th Legislature convenes in 2017," Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement.

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Make the FDA Advisory, Not Mandatory

You should control what medicines you use, not the FDA. The FDA should make advisory recommendations only. It should NOT have the power to mandate which drugs you can buy, and which you cannot.

  • If pharmaceutical companies value the FDA seal of approval, then they can pay the FDA to evaluate their drugs.
  • If consumers value FDA approval, then they can decide to only buy FDA approved drugs.

If the FDA’s seal of approval is really so valuable, then it does NOT need to be mandatory. No coercion is necessary. Instead, the FDA should be able to sell its services through voluntary means, just like Underwriter’s Laboratory does.

Consumers and doctors should be free to consult available science, and make their own decisions about which treatments to try.

All human beings are unique. Treatments that might be dangerous for one person, could be the only possible solution for another. There is zero chance that one-size-fits-all dictates can possibly account for the vastness of human variability. Patients and doctors must have the flexibility to deal with individual human uniqueness.

The FDA should serve, not rule.

Talking Points:

There are thousands of reasons why the FDA should lose its power to coerce you and your loved ones. Some of these reasons will be listed below, so that you can use them when writing to Congress, or when asking your friends to contact Congress on this issue . . .

The FDA gives consumers a false sense of security. Americans assume that the FDA is actually protecting them, but it is not. For instance . . .

The Union of Concerned Scientists surveyed 6,000 FDA scientists in 2006, and 1,000 of them responded with the following disturbing admissions:

  • 17% admitted that they had been "asked explicitly by FDA decision makers to provide incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading information to the public, regulated industry, media, or elected/senior government officials."
  • Less than half agreed that the FDA "routinely provides complete and accurate information to the public."
  • 47% admitted to being aware of instances "where commercial interests have inappropriately induced or attempted to induce the reversal, withdrawal, or modification of FDA determinations of actions."

The FDA is constantly attempting to expand its powers. The people in that agency are relentlessly pushing into areas that are NOT part of their mandate — even where there is NO problem that needs to be fixed.

For Example: The FDA has made repeated attempts to regulate vitamins and supplements, even though there is no evidence that these things present any danger. Quite the contrary — vitamins and supplements are a powerful example of how health outcomes can be improved, without FDA involvement. The website of the Life Extension Foundation is full of scientific citations to demonstrate this. For instance . . .

A review of 2009 information for "adverse events" reported to the national control center’s data system shows that, NO major adverse events or deaths were reported for . . .

  • Botanical supplements like St. John’s wort, ginseng, and Echinacea
  • Hormone supplements like DHEA, melatonin, and pregnenolone
  • Phytoestrogen supplements
  • The joint- and cartilage-support supplements glucosamine and chondroitin
  • Vitamins A and E, and only one adverse event each was reported for vitamin B6 and C

In total, 41 major adverse events were reported for the entire spectrum of supplements including botanicals, amino acids, and vitamins, and only one was a death.

In contrast, more than 7,000 major adverse events were reported for pharmaceutical drugs, including a total of 496 deaths. And based on previous studies, we know the overall death rate for physician prescribed drugs to be far higher.

The Downsize DC position is pro-choice. The FDA should serve, not rule.

Use the form at right to send your elected representatives a letter about this issue. It’s easy!

  • Your position will be counted by each Congressional office,
  • Will educate the Congressional staffer who reads it,
  • May be passed up the chain of command,
  • May receive a reply (many DC Downsizers get them). If you receive such a letter, please share it with us at [email protected].

 

Send a letter to Congress

We provide the first few words of the letter so that Congressional offices will see the most important point

right at the start, and so that no one can hijack our system for another purpose.

Here’s the part we provide . . .

Make the FDA advisory, not mandatory.

LINK

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