Cannabis–The Swiss Army Knife of Medicine

I’ve always been the MacGyver-type. He used a Swiss Army knife to solve problems and build crazy things like a helicopter using a rock and a toothpick. I’ve been a physician for over 20 years, but it wasn’t until last year that I began to recommend something different for my patients — cannabis. I call it “the Swiss Army knife of medicine.”

After my brother died from cancer, I decided I’d prescribe cannabis when legislation allowed. In 2016, I opened MEDCAN, Florida’s first medical office dedicated to helping patients qualify for medical cannabis under Florida Law.

Since then at MEDCAN, we’ve cared for hundreds of patients over thousands of visits.
While the science is inexact, we see miraculous results on a regular basis. We’ve examined children who’ve had 60 seizures a week, and now have none; women who’ve had a 20-year struggle with pain, then throw off the chains of narcotics, and are living their life again; terminal cancer patients who seem as happy and content as any healthy person; a body-builder and marine who was crippled with pain in a wheelchair but after medical cannabis treatment has become more active and for the first time in years, loves his life again.

I must admit, at times I feel I have done more for my patients in this one year, than I’ve done in the past 20.

Cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, pain syndromes, anxiety, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s, HIV, ALS and other disorders, are all treated with cannabis. How can one single drug be used to treat so many unrelated ailments?

The answer lies in the endocannabinoid system — a network of receptors found almost everywhere in our body. These receptors respond to natural endocannabinoids such as anandamide which is a neuromodulator of physical, cognitive and pain pathways. Some specialists in the field feel many diseases are caused by or related to a cannabinoid deficiency. Medical cannabis fills that void.

Last week, a patient confidently said to me “the Las Vegas Shooting would never have happened had the killer been treated with medical cannabis.” Cold chills ran up my neck, for I realized, as preposterous as it sounds, there would be support for that statement.

Interestingly, the politics of cannabis have hurt as many people as it’s helped. Special interests on all sides have squelched research, while other groups have pushed for stiffer criminal penalties for minor possessions. I urge a unified nationwide effort for legitimate research, a decriminalization of all non-violent possessions, and a consideration for the release of all those held in prison for the latter.

In a first step, MEDCAN founded the Compassionate Offenders Program which will provide bail money for non-violent, non-DUI offenders charged with minor possession but cannot afford their bail.

I believe cannabis is good medicine for the right patients. Certainly there are many in our country that could benefit from its healing power — the power of cannabis, the Swiss Army knife of medicine.

 

(As published on November 01, 2017, in USA Today.)